President Obama said the oil supply glut that has forced prices down to about $30 a barrel makes his proposal to levy a $10 per-barrel tax on crude oil timely.
"Gas is $1.80 [a gallon] and expected to stay low for a while," Obama said Friday from the White House. He said it's therefore strategic to "use this period to accelerate the transition to a cleaner energy economy, because we know that it's not going to last."
The tax would likely be passed down to the consumer, but the White House appears to be of the view that consumers would have an easier time paying it during record low prices.
The White House revealed Thursday that Obama's 2017 budget will seek to phase in the $10 per-barrel tax over five years to refill the empty Highway Trust Fund's coffers and pay for major transportation and infrastructure projects across the country. The tax revenue would also be used for clean-energy technology research and development.
Obama said he would make a "larger speech" about the proposal later, but noted that with the restriction on U.S. crude oil exports lifted, his proposal comes at a fortuitous time.
Low gas prices and the resumption of U.S. oil exports make it a "good time" to invest in the research and technology we'll need in the future, Obama said. He said a decade or two from now, the U.S. would be in a better position when oil prices start rising again, Obama said.
"We will have further weaned our economy off of dirty fuels" and have a cleaner, stronger economy, he said. "We'll look back and say, 'that was a smart investment; that was a wise decision for us to make."
Unlike the dire predictions of Republicans and oil companies that immediately followed the proposal's rollout, Obama said it "won't be a disruptive factor in the economy."