This opinion piece originally ran in The Hill's Congress Blog.
By Drew Sloan, Truman National Security Project and Matt Garrington, Checks and Balances Project
In September 2010, engineers successfully capped BP’s ruptured Deepwater Horizon oil rig, after it spilled estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This month, one year after a milestone in the worst environmental disaster in America’s history, its effects continue to devastate the region’s economy and the families who live there.
Adding insult to these American’s injuries, BP was able to write-off a whopping $13 billion of its clean-up costs on its taxes, forcing American families to pay the tab for the damage the oil company created.
This summer, an ExxonMobil pipeline rupture polluted at least 10 miles of Montana’s Yellowstone River. And like BP, lawyers and politicians will make sure that Americans pay the damages by permitting the world’s most profitable corporation to write-off clean up costs on its taxes.
That’s in addition to the $15 billion Americans pay every year in taxpayer-funded subsidies and special tax breaks to the oil and gas industry.
Americans pay three different ways for their fuel: First at the pump, then for the environmental impacts and cleanup costs of spills, then finally, by subsidizing government handouts to this multi-billion dollar industry.
The facts are black and white:
• The American drilling industry is nearly at pre-recession levels and approaching a 20-year high in activity.
• America is the world’s third largest producer of oil and the world’s largest producer of natural gas.
• Oil companies reported over $67 billion in profits for the first half of 2011, and spent $39,562,199 in lobbying Congress to protect another $43 billion in corporate tax breaks.
Despite these facts, oil and gas companies continue to ask for more handouts, and company CEOs blame government obstructionism for hurting supply.
The truth is that oil and gas companies have failed to develop 6,500 onshore drilling permits where they have a green light to drill. And, 57 percent of all onshore leases and 70 percent of all offshore leases have yet to be developed. Over-regulation and access to domestic natural resources are simply not an issue.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA-4) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) both say they’re in favor of an all of the above energy strategy. Unfortunately for American families, actions speak louder than words. Hastings and Upton say “All of the Above,” but their actions prove they mean “Oil Above All.”
We must build a 21st century energy infrastructure to insulate ourselves against speculators artificially inflating the oil markets. Diversifying our nation’s energy portfolio will give people a choice in where they spend their dollars – a choice not to buy from companies that pollute our rivers or stain our beaches. How many times must Americans foot the bill and our water, air and land pay the price.
Americans need control when it comes to energy. And we can get there by making investments in a new energy economy that diversifies our energy options while at the same time making our nation safe, secure, and strong in the years to come. Doing this will lead to job creation, keep investment dollars here at home and insulate us from the instability around the globe. A diversified energy portfolio would give Americans a choice in how they power their lives.
The time has come for us to take back control. Let’s do it.
By Drew Sloan, Truman National Security Project
Matt Garrington, Checks & Balances Project