WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - Addressing several hundred demonstrators at a Capitol Hill rally today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called for an end to tax breaks and other subsidies for the enormously-profitable oil and coal industries.
"We've got to end all of the tax breaks for the oil companies and coal companies and I'm going to introduce legislation to do just that," Sanders told demonstrators clad in black-and-white striped referee shirts who rallied to "blow the whistle" on members of Congress and Big Oil.
Ending tax breaks and subsidies for oil and gas companies would reduce the deficit by more than $40 billion over the next 10 years. Sanders' legislation will end those tax breaks and tens of billions of dollars in other special subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
The five largest oil companies in the United States have earned about $1 trillion in profits over the past decade. Meanwhile, in recent years, some of the very largest oil companies in America like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, paid absolutely nothing in federal income taxes. In fact, some of them have actually gotten rebates from the Internal Revenue Service.
Sanders proposed legislation last year that would have eliminated the oil and gas tax incentives. His bill would have used the revenue instead to pay down the debt and invest in energy efficiency. The measure received just 35 votes in the Senate.
Sanders was introduced at the rally by fellow Vermonter Bill McKibben. The senator congratulated him and his grassroots organization, 350.org, for their role in building public opposition to a crude oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Sanders, a member of the Senate energy and environment committees, also fought to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. He led members of Congress in calling for a special review by the State Department inspector general into alleged conflicts of interest in an environmental impact study of the pipeline project.
President Barack Obama announced last week that he would not approve construction of the controversial pipeline under the tight timeframe that congressional Republicans tried to impose.