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Illinois Petroleum Council blames public policy over gas and oil crisis

As Illinois gasoline prices remain well over $4 a gallon, industry officials say the solution is on U.S. soil.

President Joe Biden is ordering the release of oil from the country’s reserve in an effort to combat high gas prices. But the release of about 1 million barrels a day is unlikely to resolve the energy crisis, analysts say.

A culmination of events brought us here, but Jim Watson, executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council, said it all started when Biden took office.

“Their signals from Washington were, we don’t want any infrastructure projects so they cut pipelines, we don’t want you to lease off of federal lands so leases stopped, and they tried to put in certain methane taxes,” Watson said. “All these were signals to the industry that we better not invest.”

The soaring cost of fuel has become a major political issue around the world, including in the U.S.

The pain at the pump has been particularly difficult in Illinois with some of the highest gasoline taxes in the country, sending many motorists over the state lines to Wisconsin and Missouri to fill up their tanks.

Three states, Connecticut, Maryland and Georgia, have temporarily suspended gas taxes to help consumers while the cost of gas has increased.

As part of his budget proposal, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed a one-year motor fuel tax freeze that’s tied to inflation. In 2019, Pritzker signed legislation that doubled the state’s gas tax from 19 cents a gallon to 38 cents a gallon, and included annual increases tied to inflation.

Republican lawmakers say Pritzker’s proposed suspension of this summer’s scheduled inflationary increase doesn’t go far enough. State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said the state gasoline tax should be repealed entirely.

“That is one of the most regressive taxes that we have,” Wilhour said. “It disproportionately burdens working-class folks and disproportionately burdens rural folks.”

Watson said decisions at the state and federal level could bring gas and home heating costs down in a short time.

“Three years ago we were the number one producer of oil and natural gas and we can do that again given the right signals, given the right policy,” Watson said.

This article originally appeared on TheCenterSquare.

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