The current national average of $3.76 a gallon is about three pennies less than it was a month ago and about $1.25 below the June peak, but still far above the $2.39 it was when Mr. Biden took office, according to AAA.
The issue flared recently when Saudi Arabia led the OPEC Plus cartel to cut production by up to two million barrels of oil a day just before the midterm elections, a move that Biden administration officials considered a betrayal of a private understanding to increase supplies rather than the other way around.
A windfall profits tax would impose an excise levy on the output of domestic oil producers. Congress would establish the tax rate, which could differ between independent producers and the biggest companies. It would be the first windfall profits tax in the United States in more than three decades, but since earlier this year, 15 European countries have proposed or enacted such levies, including Britain, Italy and Spain, according to the Tax Foundation.
Urged by President Jimmy Carter, Congress imposed a windfall profits tax in 1980 after a sharp increase in oil prices spurred by an OPEC embargo. Lawmakers were trying to offset large industry tax deductions, including a depletion allowance for older wells with exhausting deposits and an array of deductions for drilling.
But domestic production fell and dependence on foreign oil increased, while forecasts of revenue from the windfall tax turned out to be overly optimistic. Congress repealed the tax in 1988 after oil prices fell.
Industry executives said Mr. Biden’s proposal to revive the tax would not increase supplies. “It’s a horrible idea, small thinking,” said Patrick Montalban, the president of Montalban Oil and Gas, a producer in North Dakota and Montana. “It’s going to take away from exploration and production of domestic oil and gas. It’s that simple. Total politics.”
Democrats who have pressed Mr. Biden to consider such a tax applauded his statement. “It’s time for Congress to stand up to Big Oil and bring relief to consumers, instead of corporate stock buybacks and bonuses,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who has introduced windfall profits tax legislation.