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Putting Big Oil Before the Needs of the American People

The price of oil surged to a new high this afternoon - reaching more than $120 per barrel - just days after the big five oil companies reported a staggering $36.9 billion in profits for the first three months of 2008.  Hard-working Americans are feeling the strain of these high prices at the gas pump, in the grocery store and rippling throughout our economy.  

The Democratic-led House is committed to bringing real relief to hardworking Americans struggling with high gas prices. President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress have fought repeated efforts to reduce the burden of rising gas prices and make our nation less dependent on foreign oil. Time and again, most House Republicans put the interests of Big Oil before the needs of the American people.

The Republican Record on Oil Company Subsidies & Renewable Energy
In February, the New Direction Congress passed the Renewable Energy and Conservation Tax Act of 2008 to repeal subsidies to profit-rich big oil companies and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. 174 Republicans - including all of the Republican leadership - voted against this legislation. Democrats first offered a version of this in 2006, but House Republicans rejected Democratic efforts to remove $5 billion worth of subsidies and tax loopholes for large oil companies that are earning record profits. [Vote #109, 4/27/06; Vote #121, 5/3/06]   Also in 2006, Republicans repeatedly stood in the way of Democratic amendments to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. [Vote #194, 5/24/06; Vote #179, 5/23/06]

The Republican Record on Price Gouging
On May 23, 2007, the Democratic-led Congress passed the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act (H.R. 1252) over the objections of 140 Republicans who voted against the measure. [Vote #404] This plan was first offered in 2005, but Republicans blocked Democratic proposals to impose tough criminal penalties on price gouging companies and to suspend deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower prices at the pump. [Vote # 209, 5/24/05; Vote #500, 9/28/05; Vote #517, 10/7/05 and Vote #518, 10/7/05]
The Republican Record on Holding OPEC Accountable for Oil Price Fixing
In May 2007, the New Direction Congress passed the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act “NOPEC” (H.R. 2264) enabling the Department of Justice to take legal action against OPEC-controlled entities for participating in oil cartels that drive up oil prices globally and in the United States. 67 Republicans - including most of the Republican leadership - voted against this legislation. Democrats first offered this proposal in the fall of 2005, but Republicans, who controlled Congress in 2005, failed to bring the bill up to a vote.


New York Times Editorial: “Big Oil's Friends in the Senate,” May 5th 

Listen to almost any politician, President Bush included, and you'll hear that the fight against global warming cannot be won without cleaner technologies that will ease dependence on fossil fuels. Yet these same politicians are on the verge of allowing modest but vital tax credits to expire that are crucial to the future of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

These credits are necessary to attract new investment in renewable sources until they become competitive with cheaper, dirtier fuels like coal. When the credits disappear, investments shrivel. The production tax credit for wind energy has been allowed to expire three times. In each case, new investment dropped by more than 70 percent. The credits for wind and solar expire at the end of this year, so action now is important.

Though there is plenty of blame to go around, Mr. Bush and Senate Republicans bear a heavy burden. The House approved, as part of last year's energy bill, a multiyear extension of the credits, while insisting -- under its pay-as-you-go rules -- that they be offset by rescinding an equivalent amount in tax credits for the oil companies. The oil companies (though rolling in profits) screamed, Mr. Bush lofted veto threats, and the Senate, by a one-vote margin, refused to go along.

Senator John McCain -- who is far ahead of his party on climate change -- missed that crucial vote. He could be a hero if he now rode in off the campaign trail and corralled the Republican votes needed to extend the tax credits; his vote alone might be enough.

The Senate is still trying -- but not hard enough. Three weeks ago, it approved a bipartisan measure that would authorize a one-year extension of the production tax credit for wind and a multiyear extension of the investment tax credit for solar power.

With other bells and whistles, it would cost $6 billion. The bill still does not rescind any oil company tax credits, so it does not meet the House's legitimate demand for offsets. Like the House, we believe strongly that Congress must pay as it goes.

So the burden remains with the Senate. And the choice for the senators, in particular the Republicans, is simply this: They can extract a few billion dollars from the ridiculously rich oil companies (Exxon alone made more than $40 billion last year), or they must explain to the American people why protecting the oil companies is more important than protecting the planet.