As many continue to suffer from tough economic times and still too high rate of unemployment, American families and small businesses face additional hardship of record gas prices - averaging nearly $4.00 per gallon. This is causing both pain at the pump, as well as rising costs for food and other basic household goods. American taxpayers are also footing the bill for tens of billions in subsidies Big Oil, even as oil companies are raking in huge profits:
The top five multi-national oil companies made over $900 billion in profits over the last decade - with another $36 billion in profits just this quarter.
Democrats are determined to bring relief to families hurt by the rising costs of gasoline, protect taxpayers' dollars by ending the largest of these unwarranted and costly subsidies, and reduce the deficit.
These Big Oil subsidies are particularly egregious when oil prices are $112 per barrel. Even ex-Shell CEO John Hofmeister said when oil prices were $85 per barrel, “with high oil prices, such subsidies are not necessary.” [National Journal, 2/11/11]
Some Republicans have recently said they were open to curtailing some of these subsidies. Speaker Boehner said that oil companies should pay their fair share, and Budget Chairman Paul Ryan agreed that we should eliminate taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil. And yet this year, Republicans have already voted to: protect Big Oil subsidies three times, slash the watchdog agency over oil speculation, and cut clean energy investments, while preventing the House from considering anti-price gouging legislation. Most recently, Republicans have rejected calls from President Obama and Democratic Leader Pelosi to vote this week on ending taxpayer-funded breaks for Big Oil.
Today, on behalf of House Democrats, Rep. Tim Bishop introduced the Taxpayer and Gas Price Relief Act--a bill that takes steps to bring down gasoline prices, while ending unwarranted and costly taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil to reduce the deficit.
- To help consumers at the pump and provide some relief to small business and families struggling with high gas prices, the bill expands the authority of the President to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to combat market manipulation and bring down the price and makes it a federal crime to sell gasoline at excessive prices.
- To protect taxpayers, hold Big Oil accountable, and reduce the deficit, the bill repeals the largest tax breaks for the Big Five Oil companies and ensures that oil companies pay billions owed to taxpayers for drilling on public lands.
This is part of our multi-faceted efforts to lower the price of gas now, bring relief to consumers and taxpayers, strengthen our energy security and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and hold Big Oil accountable. Next week, we will announce legislation to increase American energy production, with a serious commitment to safer, responsible drilling and to the clean energy that will power the future and create jobs.
Republicans' 'Drill-Only, Oil Above All' plan is really a boon for Big Oil and does nothing to reduce the pain at the pump America's middle class families are facing now. Republicans are simply returning to the Bush policies for Big Oil -- continuing to pursue 'drill-only' policies with fewer safeguards and no accountability -- that has us sending a billion dollars a day overseas for foreign oil.
Taxpayer and Gas Price Relief Act
The Taxpayer and Gas Price Relief Act works to reduce gas prices and the deficit by:
- Ending Biggest Tax Breaks for Big Oil: Saves taxpayers $31 billion over ten years by eliminating three of the largest tax breaks for the five major oil companies -- such as a giveaway in the 2004 international tax law (Section 199), accounting rules, and the immediate write off for intangible drilling costs.
- Making Oil Companies Pay their Fair Share: Saves taxpayers over $2 billion by fixing a flaw in 1998 and 1999 leases in the Gulf of Mexico that currently allows oil companies to drill without paying any royalties that could cost American taxpayers up to $53 billion over the next 25 years. Republicans rejected this proposal by a vote of 174-251 [HR 1, Vote #109, 2/18/11] despite their calls to reduce the deficit. (H.R. 1352, Markey)
- Releasing Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Expands the authority of the President to release oil from the SPR to combat market manipulation and curb speculation, temporarily release up to 5 percent of the oil from the government's stockpile and replace it later with refined products like gasoline or diesel - in order to bring down prices now and update the reserves to provide for long-term security. The stockpile is 100% full, and past releases have brought down gasoline prices by up to 33 percent.
- Stopping Price Gouging: Makes it illegal to sell gasoline at excessive prices and helps prevents Big Oil and the industry from taking advantage of consumers and engaging in price gouging. This is real help for consumers in this difficult economic time. (H.R. 964, Bishop)
- Reducing the Deficit: This bill would bring in at least $33 billion over ten years to responsibly reduce the deficit or spur American clean energy.