Energy & Environment — Biden calls for gas tax holiday
President Biden officially calls for a gas tax suspension, but it faces an uphill climb in Congress. Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland provides an update on the investigation into Native American boarding schools.
Biden backs gas tax suspension
President Biden on Wednesday officially backed the suspension of both federal and state taxes on gasoline amid soaring fuel prices.
- “Today, I’m calling on Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for the next 90 days through the busy…travel season,” Biden said at the White House.
- “But we can also cut gas prices even more in another way. That’s why the second action I’m taking is calling on states to either suspend the state gas tax as well or find other ways to deliver some relief,” he added.
The federal gasoline tax is 18 cents per gallon, while state gas taxes average about 26 cents per gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
Biden also alluded to halting the 24 cent federal tax on diesel.
His federal effort, however, is likely to face high hurdles in Congress amid skepticism from both Republicans and members of his own party.
Opponents have raised concerns about whether the suspension will be effective — saying some of the cut may not get passed to consumers — and have also noted that the taxes the government collects goes toward the Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for the country’s infrastructure.
His message for the critics: Biden sought to assuage those concerns in his speech, arguing it’s possible to address highway funding at the same time and calling on companies to pass the potential suspension to consumers.
- “With the tax revenues up this year and our deficit down over $1.6 trillion this year alone, we’ll still be able to fix our highways and bring down prices of gas, we can do both at the same time,” he said.
- “I call on the companies to pass this along — every penny of this 18 cent reduction — to the consumers. There’s no time now for profiteering,” he added.
In a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm estimated that the highway trust fund would be hit by about $10 billion, but said that Biden is asking “that the trust fund be repaid.”
She added that he was having conversations with congress about how to do that.
In his speech, Biden also acknowledged that gas tax suspensions won’t entirely resolve high prices— as gasoline averaged around $4.96 nationwide on Wednesday, but still said they would provide important savings.
“I fully understand that a gas tax holiday alone is not going to fix the problem, but it will provide families some immediate relief, just a little bit of breathing room, as we continue working to bring down prices for the long haul.”
A LONG SHOT ON CAPITOL HILL
Biden’s push for a gas tax holiday faces tough odds in Congress, both Republicans and several members of his own party have come out against a gas tax suspension.
- Both top Republicans and Democrats who typically align with Biden are among those who have given fresh criticism of the gas tax suspension over the past day or so.
- Meanwhile Democratic leaders, who have also been skeptical, said they would give it a fair shake on Wednesday – though it’s unclear where the majority of the caucus stands.
Democratic leadership: In a statement following Biden’s Wednesday speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave a lukewarm response.
“We will see where the consensus lies on a path forward for the President’s proposal in the House and the Senate,” she said.
Pelosi had previously raised concerns about whether the benefits would actually go to consumers and whether they’d be taken out of the highway trust fund.
“We have a situation where there’s money coming out of the Highway Trust Fund, it’s going to the oil companies, they may not give it to the consumer, and it has to be paid for. … That’s the con,” Pelosi,
Meanwhile, second-in-command Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he’d consider Biden’s proposal, but expressed some reservations.
“The president’s made a proposal. I’m going to look at it certainly — sympathetically — in the sense that the president is trying to do what I think is a good objective. …
What I’m not sure of is that, in fact, that will have the effect, the intended effect, in terms of the retail price — whether in fact it will save consumers money,” Hoyer told reporters. “We all agree that the price at the pump is hurting working Americans.”
He also said it’s not clear whether the idea has enough support to pass the House.
“I don’t know whether we have the votes; we haven’t counted,” he said.
Infrastructure Democrats: Meanwhile, top infrastructure Democrats have also expressed opposition.
- “Suspending the federal gas tax will not provide meaningful relief at the pump for American families, but it will blow a multi-billion-dollar hole in the highway trust fund putting funding for future infrastructure projects at risk,” House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told The Hill in a statement on Tuesday.
- “Suspending the primary way that we pay for infrastructure projects on our roads is a shortsighted and inefficient way to provide relief,” tweeted Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.).
Even if Biden could get all of the members of his own party to back a gas tax suspension, he’d likely need to convince 10 Republicans given the Senate’s filibuster rule.
The GOP: That also seems unlikely, as many Republicans have also offered criticism of the idea.
“A gas tax holiday isn’t a real fix & doesn’t address our supply problem. It’s another wrongheaded idea equivalent to putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound,” tweeted Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
Boarding schools investigation continues
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday outlined the next steps her department has planned to address the legacy of abuses at government-run schools for indigenous children and legislation to examine the matter.
- Haaland, the first Indigenous Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, testified Wednesday afternoon before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about the first volume of Interior’s investigative report into the schools.
- At these institutions, Indigenous children had their hair cut and were forbidden from speaking their native languages, among other efforts to extinguish their heritage and assimilate them into the broader American culture.
- The first Interior report, released in May, found that over a 50-year period, more than 500 children died across 19 schools.
Meanwhile: The hearing also served as a chance to examine S. 2907, a bill to establish a Truth and Healing Commission to address the school system’s legacy.
The legislation, which Haaland had sponsored during her time representing New Mexico in the House, would require the commission to develop recommendations for protecting unmarked graves and how to identify the original tribal areas from which the children were taken. It would also create legislative guardrails to keep present-day governmental institutions such as social service agencies from forcibly assimilating native children.
“Some of the most influential decisions by the department on the lives of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children involve those related to federal Indian boarding schools,” Haaland said.
“That is part of America’s story that we must tell. While we cannot change that history, I believe that our nation will benefit from a full understanding of the truth of what took place and a focus on healing the wounds of the past.”
Female scientists less likely to be credited for work
Women in science are less likely than their male counterparts to receive authorship credit for the work they do, a new study has found.
- The study, published in Nature on Wednesday, found that women who worked on a given research project were 13 percent less likely than their male colleagues to appear as authors in related journal articles.
- “Women are not getting credit at the same rates as men on journal articles,” co-author Enrico Berkes, a postdoctoral researcher in economics at The Ohio State University, said in a statement. “The gap is persistent, and it is strong.”
- When it came to patents, the authors found an even larger gender gap: Women were nearly 59 percent less likely than men to be named on patents related to the projects they worked on.
To draw these conclusions, the authors said they combed through a swath of administrative data from universities that helped reveal precisely who was involved with and paid for various projects.
That information came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s UMETRICS dataset, which contains details about sponsored research projects for 52 higher education institutions from 2013 through 2016. These projects involved almost 129,000 people on nearly 10,000 research teams, according to the study.
After sorting through this information, the researchers said they linked that data to patents and articles published in scientific journals to determine which individuals received credit in the patents and journals and who did not.
ON TAP TOMORROW
The House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Environment will hold a hearing entitled “Assessing Federal Programs for Measuring Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks”
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Officials called it the ‘year of water’ at the Legislature. Special interests still pushed against conservation. (The Salt Lake Tribune and ProPublica)
- Is US solar ready to prove its panels aren’t made with forced labor? (Canary Media)
- One family, three generations of cancer, and the largest concentration of oil refineries in California (Grist and High Country News)
- Unilever’s Plastic Playbook (Reuters)
And finally, something offbeat and off-beat: Booking it.
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Energy & Environment page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.
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