WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama called for a windfall tax on oil company profits Friday, as pump prices in the United States hit a new record high.
"For the well-off in this country, high gas prices are mostly an annoyance. But to most Americans, they're a huge problem, bordering on a crisis," he told reporters at a gas station in Indiana, where he is campaigning.
According to the automobile association AAA, the average price of a gallon (3.78 liters) of gas reached a record 3.58 dollars Friday.
Obama proposes oil companies be taxed on windfall profits from oil sold at or above 80 dollars a barrel, and the revenue be used to help relieve the burden of rising prices on working people, according to his campaign.
He also wants more transparency in the way pump prices are fixed, a tax cut for the middle classes that would benefit families by up to 1,000 dollars a year, and a 150-billion-dollar investment over 10 years in clean energy.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has proposed cutting federal taxes on pump gas this summer to counter rising prices, but Obama rejected this idea, saying such taxes brought in needed funds for road maintenance.
"I don't want somebody to save essentially 25 bucks -- that's what the savings would yield for the average driver -- and now they're potentially driving over an unsafe bridge," he said.
"I think it's a better option for us to use the mechanism I've talked about, providing a middle-class tax cut would give people relief" for rising food and energy prices.
"And at the same time go after a windfall profit tax that would be used to provide relief to low-income folks," he said.
The Illinois senator turned his attention to McCain and to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, referring to them as "the candidates with the Washington experience."
"They mean well. But they've been in Washington an awful long time and even with all the experience they talk about, nothing has happened," he said.
He noted that the United States did not raise fuel-efficiency standards for more than 30 years, adding: "What have we got for all that experience? Gas that's approaching four dollars a gallon."
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