Will the Senate Retain Billions in Subsidies for Oil Companies?

Fire Boats Attempt to Control Fire on BP's Deepwater Horizon


The biggest oil companies in the US receive billions of dollars of US tax subsidies each year. The most profitable companies in the world are making billions in profits while speculators boost the price of each gallon of gas and home fuel oil. In fact, in the first quarter of 2011, the major oil companies made $30 billion in profits.

Some in the Congress seem to think that oil companies profits are not high enough. Last week, the House of Representatives voted to approve three bills that would increase oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts — including in New England’s ocean and on historic Georges Bank. These bills did nothing to reduce the taxpayer subsidies enjoyed by oil companies.

This week the US Senate has a choice to either remove $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies that go to oil companies OR to make it drastically easier for oil companies to drill in our most sensitive ocean and coastal areas. In the next two days the Senate will vote on two separate bills: The Menendez bill, S 940, would eliminate $20 billion in taxpayer subsidies that could be used for debt reduction. The McConnell bill, S.953, will allow oil companies to stay on the public dole by keeping their taxpayer-funded subsidies AND it would increase dangerous oil drilling in America’s most sensitive ocean areas. In a move that would give oil companies an even greater gift, Sen. McConnell has indicated that he could swap his introduced bill with the text of the pro-drilling bills that were passed by the House last week.

One of the House-passed bills, HR1231, actually requires the Department of Interior to “make available for leasing and conduct lease sales including at least 50 percent of the available unleased acreage within each Outer Continental Shelf planning area” or “any state subdivision of an Outer Continental Shelf planning area that the Governor of the state that represents that subdivision requests be made available for leasing.” This bill would require oil and gas development in New England’s ocean despite test drilling in the 1970s and early 1980s that shows New England’s ocean has only 3 percent of US oil and gas deposits. The harmful effects of oil drilling on New England’s ocean wildlife and recovering fish populations would likely create more economic costs than gain. The industrial development that accompanies oil drilling such as onshore pipelines and infrastructure would irrevocably alter our coastal communities.

New England needs clean, renewable energy and deserves to be allowed to leave polluting, dangerous fossil fuels in the past. Instead, short-sighted Congressional politics could force industrial scale oil drilling operations in New England’s ocean waters for the first time. We can do better. Call your Senators today and tell them that oil subsidies and unsafe oil drilling should not be in the future of New England’s ocean or coastal communities.

Call your Senators today — Tuesday, May 17 — through the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Urge your Senators to SUPPORT Senate bill 940, the “Close Big Oil Loopholes Act.”

Urge your Senators to OPPOSE Senate bill 953, the McConnell Dirty Drilling Bill.

Focus Areas

Climate ChangeOceans



About the CLF Blog

The views and opinions expressed on this blog do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of Conservation Law Foundation, our boards, or our supporters.