WASHINGTON, July 14 The head of the
International Energy Agency urged U.S. policymakers on Monday to
look closely at their country's low gasoline taxes, saying that
the resulting cheap prices may lead to fuel squandering even in
the midst of a drilling boom.
"From a global perspective, I urge you to take a hard look,"
said Maria van der Hoeven, the head of the Paris-based IEA, the
energy watchdog for developed countries.
"You may find that with your tax structure on gasoline, you
... may be encouraging wasteful consumption," she said at a
conference held by the Energy Information Administration, the
statistics arm of the U.S. Energy Department.
The United States has the lowest gasoline prices in the IEA,
which has 29 country members, with taxes making up about 15
percent of that price. In comparison, taxes account for 60
percent of the cost of motor fuel in many European countries
including Norway, the Netherlands and Italy, according to the
Van der Hoeven did not call for a U.S. gasoline tax hike.
She said such increases are a tough sell in Washington,
particularly ahead of congressional elections in November, and
noted that the Obama administration has pushed through advances
in vehicle fuel economy.
But the United States and other consuming countries must
"challenge ourselves with tough questions" in times of
abundance, she said.
Thanks to hydraulic fracturing and other technologies, the
United States has already become the world's top natural gas
producer and is on track to take the same spot in oil output.
But IEA forecasts show production of U.S. light oil reaching
a plateau next decade. And violence in Iraq, home to some of the
world's most abundant and inexpensively-produced oil, is making
long-term investment decisions there "an exceedingly difficult
task," she said.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Paul Simao)