CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tens of millions of Americans are expected to drive for Fourth of July vacations this year despite record gas prices across the country, AAA forecasts.
With the national average price of gasoline sitting just under $5 a gallon, 47.9 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend (June 30 - July 4), according to AAA. That's just shy of the numbers seen in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vast majority of those folks, approximately 42 million, will drive.
"Earlier this year, we started seeing the demand for travel increase and it's not tapering off," AAA Senior Vice President Paula Twindale said. "People are ready for a break and despite things costing more, they are finding ways to still take that much needed vacation."
The surprising prediction in drivers comes as President Joe Biden considers a federal gas tax holiday. Should Biden suspend the federal gasoline tax, it could save U.S. drivers up to 18.4 cents a gallon.
“Yes, I’m considering it,” Biden told reporters after taking a walk along the beach near his vacation home in Delaware. “I hope to have a decision based on the data — I’m looking for by the end of the week.”
Biden said his administration will meet with the CEOs of major oil companies to discuss the rising prices. Biden has publicly spoken out against the companies, saying they're making excessive profits while Americans are feeling the crunch of inflation.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration released oil from the U.S. strategic reserve and increased ethanol blending for the summer. Oil refiners say their ability to produce additional gas and diesel fuel is limited, meaning that prices could remain high unless demand starts to wane.
The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers sent a joint letter to Biden on Wednesday that said refineries are operating near their maximum capacity already and nearly half of the capacity taken off line was due to the facilities converting to renewable fuel production.