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Fuel prices drop as Kemp signs tax suspension bill, oil prices decline
Gas pump

COVINGTON, Ga. — Gas prices Monday in Newton County were about 12 cents lower than the week before but remained a few cents higher than the state’s average.

In Georgia, a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline cost $4.12 on average, according to AAA Monday afternoon. But in Newton County, the average was $4.18 per gallon.

While slightly higher than the state average, Newton County’s gas prices were lower than one week ago ($4.25 on Thursday) when fuel cost rates reached all-time highs.

Prices across Georgia are expected to continue decreasing as Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation Friday to temporarily suspend the state’s tax on gasoline, and as oil prices continue to drop.

The state has suspended the gasoline tax in the past when fuel supplies were disrupted, most recently when the Colonial Pipeline shut down last May following a ransomware attack.

The governor is legally allowed to suspend the tax by executive order when the General Assembly is not meeting. In this case, with lawmakers in session, Kemp waited until the bill he proposed made its way through the House and Senate.

The suspension is due to expire May 31, according to a report from Capitol Beat News Service, unless the governor decides pump prices are still high enough to warrant continuing it.

Suspension of the tax will save Georgians 29.1 cents per gallon of gasoline, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, before the bill passed through the Georgia Senate on Thursday.

Several Georgia Republicans have blamed the Biden Administration for the higher gas prices.

Hufstetler went on to accuse the Biden administration of contributing to higher gas prices through the Democratic president’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL project last year and ban drilling for oil and gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and on federal lands in Alaska.

Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, said gas prices started rising well before Russian troops entered Ukraine three weeks ago.

“Gas prices were up last year by $1 a gallon,” he said.

But Senate Democrats said the oil industry is to blame for holding down oil production in the U.S., not the Biden administration. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called on the industry last week to step up production of oil and gas.

“The administration only has control over drilling on federal lands,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta. “It’s the fossil-fuel industry’s decision not to drill. … There are permits oil companies have that they’re not accessing … because it’s not cost-effective. They’re making decisions on the expectation that demand for fossil fuels will decrease.”

Hufstetler said temporarily suspending the gas tax will cost the state an estimated $300 million to $400 million in lost revenue. That gap will be covered by reserve funds, he said.

The suspension will expire May 31. Kemp could extend it after that by executive order if he deems it necessary.

According to AAA, the price of oil has moved lower due to market concerns that crude oil demand will decline, as it did in 2020 when countries sought to curb COVID-19 transmission rates. Additionally, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that total domestic crude stocks increased by 4.3 million barrels last week to 415.9 million barrels. The recent growth in total domestic crude inventories also contributed to the current reduction in crude prices.

Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.