Oil Industry Subsidies Are Anything But Rosy

March 29, 2012 | 7:17 pm
Jim Kliesch
Former contributor

I had the pleasure of being at the White House Rose Garden this morning, when President Obama called upon Congress to eliminate oil and gas subsidies that are financially buoying an industry already soaring on record profits. This is a good idea, and a long overdue one. Not only are American consumers paying premium prices at the pump, but adding insult to injury, billions of dollars that we pay in taxes are being syphoned straight into oil industry coffers. The president said it’s “like hitting the American people twice.” He neglected to mention they’re using brass knuckles.

It’s doubly painful because the billions of taxpayer dollars funneling to the biggest oil companies could be spent making us less dependent on the stuff in the first place. As the Union of Concerned Scientists has detailed in its national oil savings plan, we can cut our projected oil consumption in half in 20 years, if we pursue a robust portfolio including:

  • building more efficient vehicles that use less oil
  • building advanced technology vehicles that use little or no oil
  • developing and using renewable, environmentally friendly advanced biofuels
  • increasing mass transit options that allow us to choose when and where we use our cars and trucks

These efforts would have very positive effects on our economy, reducing our fuel expenditures and building a diverse clean technology industry—to say nothing of improving our energy security. But as the saying goes, it takes money to make money, and right now these areas could benefit from some support. If only there was a source of a few billion dollars lying around.

In the strange world that is Washington, this no-brainer measure fell short today in a vote on Capitol Hill. If there’s some comfort to be had, it’s that a majority of Senators actually voted to end these subsidies. They simply didn’t have enough to reach the 60 votes required.

I’m not opposed to the oil industry turning a hefty profit for its shareholders. But I am opposed to Washington lawmakers deciding that my taxes are better spent sitting in Big Oil’s coffers than in developing the future I deserve. If you agree with me, help get the message out. Only by voicing your opposition to these subsidies and support for real solutions will a change occur.