This article is exactly right.
I’ve frequently seen high oil prices referred to as “a tax on consumers.” But they’re not. High prices are high prices, and taxes are taxes. And it’s important not to get the two confused.
High prices may lead people to buy less gasoline (at least in the short term), but they’ll also lead producers to do their darndest to bring more gasoline to market. Taxes, on the other hand, raise prices paid by consumers, without creating an incentive for oil companies to pump more. That means that taxes can reduce consumption in a way that high market prices simply can’t.
The real problem right now isn’t that gas prices are too high. It’s that gas taxes are too low. As a general rule, gas taxes don’t even recoup the costs of maintaining roads, let alone the costs associated with air pollution, climate-warming emissions, and national defense (to name a few). Higher gas taxes would help to internalize some of those costs, by raising prices without also raising the incentives for increased production.
Higher gas prices may feel taxing, but they’re not a tax.