Monday, November 17, 2008

U.S. Gasoline Tax Hike Unlikely, Key Senator Says

From Reuters:

The new Congress probably will not approve legislation to raise the federal tax on gasoline, the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee said on Monday.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman said he was aware of arguments that a "variable tax" should be put on U.S. gasoline to prevent falling pump prices from encouraging Americans to drive more while making alternative fuels less attractive.

Such a tax hike "would be very tough to pass," Bingaman said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "I don't think something like that has much prospect of being enacted in my honest opinion."

Americans pay an 18.4-cent federal tax on each gallon of gasoline they buy, plus an extra 29 cents on average in combined state and local taxes.

As the cost of gasoline has declined to half its record $4.11 a gallon set in July, some energy experts have said the United States should levy a tax. These experts point to Europe, where the gasoline tax is much higher, to reduce reliance on imported petroleum. The European tax formula keeps gasoline costs high even when crude oil prices fall.

The average cost of gasoline has dropped below $2 a gallon in 17 U.S. states, raising concerns among some that many Americans will return to driving gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, hindering efforts to reduce reliance on oil imports.

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