WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gas prices continue to set records across the country with the national average hovering around $4.20/gallon.
While President Joe Biden took action last week to increase supply, can anything more be done by lawmakers to provide relief at the pump?
SOME RELIEF IS OCCURRING
The country seems to be in a much different place than it was in April of 2020 when gas prices were under $2 per gallon. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a severe impact on global energy markets.
Russia is the world's third-largest energy producer. The Biden administration is well aware of the impact the hike is having on Americans and has taken some action in the last few days.
Last Thursday, President Biden announced a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil each day for 180 days from the nation's strategic reserve.
"There isn't enough supply," President Joe Biden said on Thursday at the White House.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg also announced a plan last week to increase fuel efficiency standards in new vehicles beginning in 2024. The markets, however, have only moved marginally since those announcements.
Lawmakers typically have very little say when it comes to the price of gasoline because the energy market is so dependent on output from other countries. However, there are some options being considered on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Option #1: Pressure oil executives to produce more oil and limit profits.
This week, on Wednesday, the leaders of Shell, BP, Chevron, as well as ExxonMobil are expected to testify on Capitol Hill. Democrats are planning to push companies to do more to lower the cost.
"We want to know what’s causing these record-high prices and what needs to be done to bring them down immediately," Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) said, announcing the hearing.
Option #2: Fine oil companies for not drilling.
President Biden has called on Congress to penalize companies that have leases to drill on federal lands but currently are not. Some economists believe an increase in American energy production would offset what is being lost from Russia because of the conflict.
Energy companies have pushed back saying not every location is capable of producing oil. As a result, this idea is looking less likely to make it through a divided Senate.
Option #3: A gas tax holiday or rebate program.
One idea being floated by Democrats is to send $100/month to every American making under $75,000 for the rest of the year as long as gas is above $4/gallon.
However, that idea still lacks the necessary support for passage, with some on Capitol Hill preferring a suspension of the federal gas tax instead. Currently, the federal gas tax is 18 cents a gallon. That has some opponents as well.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed the drawbacks to that idea last week during her weekly press conference.
“The con is the oil companies don’t pass that on to the consumer, they haven’t in the past,” Pelosi told reporters.
As a result, it's still unclear if anything can actually become law in the near future that will help you with the bills.