Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why Are The Republicans Forcing Gasoline Prices Ever Higher?


Yesterday we did a longish post on how the Republicans in the Senate-- every single one of them but the two ladies from Maine-- led by the lady from Kentucky voted to filibuster to death a bill the House passed that would have prevented the kind of blatant Wall Street speculation that has been driving up the price of gasoline of late. In the House only a handful of right-wing crackpots voted against the bill, kooks like Steve King (R-IA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Mike Pence (R-IN), Pete Sessions (R-TX) and the entire Democratic caucus (100%-- 232 of them) were joined by 170 Republicans, including even Boehner, Ryan and Cantor. How "progressive" of them! It isn't often that so many Republicans have the nerve to "stand up" to their campaign donors on Wall Street-- even if there was a lot of winking and nodding going on with the Senate Republicans prepared to administer the coup de grâce immediately.

Similarly, a couple days ago Boehner theatrically announced he would support cutting subsidies for Big Oil. As usual, it didn't take much digging to discover he was lying his ass off.
John Boehner is running from his own suggestion yesterday that major oil companies no longer need some tax breaks.

Oil companies are “gonna pay their fair share in taxes and they should,” Boehner told ABC News last night. “Listen, everybody … wants to go after the oil companies. And frankly, they’ve got some part of this to blame.”

Boehner also named a specific tax provision-- the oil depletion allowance -- that he didn’t think oil majors needed.

But speaker spokesman Michael Steel later tried to recast his boss’ remarks: "The speaker made clear in the interview that raising taxes was a nonstarter, and he's told the president that,” Steel said. “He simply wasn't going to take the bait and fall into the trap of defending 'Big Oil' companies.”

And the last couple of times the House has voted on subsidies for the multibillion dollar in profits Oil and Gas industry, Boehner instructed his caucus to vote for the subsidies-- tens of billions worth. On February 18, 226 Republicans (and 25 of the their mostly Blue Dog allies) defeated Ed Markey's bill to end subsidies for Big Oil. Again on March first all 236 Republicans voted against a Motion to Recommit that would have repealed taxpayer subsidies for big oil, subsidies even ex-Shell CEO John Hofmeister says "are not necessary." Boehner, apparently thought they were necessary-- billions of dollars in taxpayer dollars siphoned off to multinational oil companies, who kick back a nice chunk to politicians they like, mostly Republicans and, of course, Blue Dog Democrats. Yesterday Nancy Pelosi chided Boehner-- before he had "walked back" his comments-- on her blog about his dishonesty:
As Americans struggle with the price at the pump, oil companies are enjoying multibillion dollar profits. According to the Wall Street Journal, the spike in oil prices “is expected to lift earnings by about 50% at Exxon Mobil Corp., and about 33% each at Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips, compared with a year earlier.” It’s clear we don’t need to be giving away billions in taxpayer dollars to the most profitable companies in the world and even ex-Shell CEO John Hofmeister agrees saying “with high oil prices, such subsidies are not necessary.”

House Republicans have made no secret of their close relationship with Big Oil from their deeply flawed “Drill Only” energy policy to their repeated votes against rolling back taxpayer subsidies. But with gas prices hitting American families and small businesses hard, the GOP is desperately trying to hide their unpopular romance. Last night, Speaker Boehner told ABC News that Big Oil “ought to be paying their fair share."

...“A departure” is quite the understatement-- House Republicans have repeatedly chosen Big Oil over the middle class. Just this month, they passed the Republican budget which ended Medicare as we know it while giving $40 billion to Big Oil in tax breaks! And that’s on top of voting down two amendments offered by Democrats earlier this year to have Big Oil, in Speaker Boehner’s words, "pay their fair share."

And Nancy wasn't the only Democrat jumping on this. President Obama sent Boehner and the rest of the congressional leadership a letter about moving forward with a sane national energy policy.
Dear Speaker Boehner, Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, and Representative Pelosi:

I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, and to use those dollars to invest in clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

High oil and gasoline prices are weighing on the minds and pocketbooks of every American family. While our economy has begun to recover, with 1.8 million private sector jobs created over the last 13 months, too many Americans are still struggling to find a job or simply just to pay the bills. The recent steep increase in gas prices, driven by increased global demand and compounded by unrest and supply disruptions in the Middle East, has only added to those struggles. If sustained, these high prices have the potential to slow down the pace of our economy’s growth at precisely the moment when we need to be accelerating it. 

While there is no silver bullet to address rising gas prices in the short term, there are steps we can take to ensure the American people don’t fall victim to skyrocketing gas prices over the long term.   One of those steps is to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and invest that revenue into clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Our outdated tax laws currently provide the oil and gas industry more than $4 billion per year in these subsidies, even though oil prices are high and the industry is projected to report outsized profits this quarter.   In fact, in the past CEO’s of the major oil companies made it clear that high oil prices provide more than enough profit motive to invest in domestic exploration and production without special tax breaks. As we work together to reduce our deficits, we simply can’t afford these wasteful subsidies, and that is why I proposed to eliminate them in my FY11 and FY12 budgets.

I was heartened that Speaker Boehner yesterday expressed openness to eliminating these tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry. Our political system has for too long avoided and ignored this important step, and I hope we can come together in a bipartisan manner to get it done. 

In addition, we need to get to work immediately on the longer term goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and our vulnerability to price fluctuations this dependence creates. Without a comprehensive energy strategy for the future we will stay stuck in the same old pattern of heated political rhetoric when prices rise and apathy and neglect when they fall again.

I recently laid out my approach to a comprehensive strategy in my Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, which includes safe and responsible production of our domestic oil and gas resources and doubling down on fuel efficiency in the transportation sector while investing in everything from wind and solar to biofuels and natural gas. None of you will agree with every aspect of this strategy. But I am confident that, in many areas, we can work together to help show the American people that we can make progress on an energy policy that creates jobs and makes our country more secure. 

And I hope we can all agree that, instead of continuing to subsidize yesterday’s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow’s. We need to invest in a 21st century clean energy economy that will keep America competitive. In the long term, that’s the answer. That’s the key to helping families avoid pain at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Harry Reid issued a statement agreeing with the President that it is "long past time to end wasteful subsidies to big oil companies that are raking in record profits. If Senate Republicans are serious about cutting spending, as Democrats are, they’ll stop filibustering our efforts to eliminate corporate welfare that even a former Shell Oil CEO said is unnecessary. Rather than giving handouts to big corporations, we should be investing in clean energy development and construction here at home to create jobs, diversify our economy, break our dangerous dependence on oil and make our nation safer. As a bipartisan delegation of senators saw first-hand, China and other countries are aggressively investing in this industry for exactly those reasons. Abundant solar, wind and geothermal resources in Nevada and across the country combined with American know-how give our country the ability to be the world leader in clean energy. We should not lose our edge in this global competition just so Republicans can give even more taxpayer money to companies that don't need it.”

Meanwhile, more than a few wonders are wondering if Boehner and McConnell are purposely sabotaging the president's energy policies so that gasoline prices will stay high, in the hopes of using that for narrow partisan gain. Would they do that?


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