WASHINGTON, June 9 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today proposed repealing more than $35 billion in oil and gas industry tax breaks.
Sanders’ amendment would invest $10 billion of the savings in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. The remaining $25 billion would reduce the federal deficit.
“What the amendment does is help transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, end unjustified tax breaks, cut the deficit and invest in energy efficiency,” Sanders said.
Calling the tax breaks “absurd,” Sanders noted that Exxon Mobil, the most profitable corporation in the history of the world, last year avoided paying any federal income taxes and pocketed a $46 million refund from the IRS.
“This amendment would begin to make sure that Exxon Mobil, BP and other big oil companies pay at least a minimal amount of their record-breaking profits in taxes to the federal government,” Sanders said.
The oil and gas tax breaks also were targeted for elimination in President Obama's budget.
During the past decade, Sanders said, the five largest oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, ChevronTexaco, and ConocoPhillips) earned more than $750 billion in profits. During the first quarter of this year, big oil's profits increased by 85 percent.
The chairman of the Senate Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee, Sanders said that the United States heavily subsidizes oil but has failed to make significant investments in safer, cleaner renewable energy sources. According to the Environmental Law Institute, the U.S. from 2002 to 2008 provided more than $70 billion in fossil fuel subsidies, compared to only $12 billion for wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and other renewable energy.
The energy block grant program that would receive $10 billion under Sanders’ amendment was created by a provision that he and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) authored in the 2007 energy bill.
Initial funding for the program came from $3.2 billion in the economic stimulus bill. In Highgate, Vt., for example, the elementary school was awarded more than $81,000 to replace lights with energy-efficient fixtures. The same program is funding windmills in Carmel, Ind., to power a sewer treatment plant. It's being used in Salt Lake City to provide loans to businesses to make energy efficiency upgrades. It's being used in Columbus, Ohio, to make public buildings more energy efficient
“This amendment may not be easy to pass,” Sanders acknowledged, noting that oil industry campaign contributions since 1990 exceed $238 million. “But it is the right thing to do for deficit reduction,” he concluded. “It is the right thing for the environment, and it is the right thing to do for consumers.”