By KIM JARRETT
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Utah Gov. Spencer Cox placed much of the blame for high gas prices on President Joe Biden, saying his policies discourage companies from investing in oil.
“This isn’t a secret,” Gov. Cox told reporters at his monthly news conference on Thursday. “He ran on this. He was very vocal that this is what he wanted to do. He wanted to raise the price of gas to destroy demand and for environmental purposes.”
The governor acknowledged other factors, such as the war between Russia and Ukraine, have played into the soaring gas prices, which have reached $5 a gallon in many states. But President Biden is discouraging U.S. investors who could provide long-term solutions, Gov. Cox said.
“The message to those that invest in this area is that ‘you should not invest in this area, that we’re not interested in future production,'” Gov. Cox said. “And yet at the same time the president is planning to go over and beg the Saudis to increase production.”
Seventy percent of Utah land is owned by the federal government, Gov. Cox said. During the Obama administration, 80 oil leases were granted, according to Gov. Cox. One hundred leases were granted during the Trump administration. The Biden administration has approved one.
Two lawmakers recently approached the governor about looking at the state’s gas tax, but it is complicated, the governor said.
“I would love to have a gas tax holiday,” Gov. Cox said. “The problems we’ve mentioned are kind of unique to the way Utah funds our way and the way our gas tax works because we tax at rack instead of at the pump. It could be a windfall for petroleum companies. I don’t think anybody is really excited about that piece. There’s no guarantee that it would be passed on directly to consumers.”
Utah’s gasoline tax funds salaries for Department of Transportation employees, Gov. Cox said previously.
“If I were to unilaterally remove the gas tax, I would also have to lay off all of UDOT’s employees, which is not great,” the governor said.
Gov. Cox said there is a significant willingness to invest in renewable energy. The state is currently working with Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming to create a hydrogen hub.
“It will take advantage of, hopefully, if we get selected, some of the money the Biden administration has put forward in the recent infrastructure bill that was passed,” Gov. Cox said.
Eight million dollars is included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for regional clean hydrogen hubs.