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“It may be a little harder, politically, but it’s more important,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” that aired Nov. 16. “Oil prices go up, gas prices at the pump go up, everybody goes into a flurry of activity. And then the prices go back down and, suddenly, we act like it’s not important, and we start, you know, filling up our SUVs again. And, as a consequence, we never make any progress.”

But former Vice President Al Gore, the most visible face of the environmental movement, said Americans learned their lesson this summer, regardless of the subsequent price dive.

“I don’t think we’re going to fall for it this time,” Mr. Gore said in a recent interview with CNN.

Industry analysts say new gasoline taxes are never popular, regardless of the political climate or the rationale.

“A tax is a tax is a tax, no matter how you try to hide it,” said Frank Maisano, an energy specialist who works with oil refiners. “Obviously, Senator Bingaman understands that.”