Call it a perfect storm of resentment on Tax Day.
Millions of Americans are rushing to turn in their taxes today, gathering forms, receipts, and ensuring it all gets in the mail on time. As they drive to the Post Office, they see gasoline at a new average national high of nearly $3.39 a gallon, as oil trades on world markets at new record highs of above $113 a barrel today.
And all the while, the top five most profitable oil companies are defending $18 billion in tax breaks over the next ten years, even as they made $123 billion in profits last year.
The typical American taxpayer pays $2,600 in federal taxes each year. At $1.8 billion dollars in tax breaks this year alone for the top oil companies, that means nearly 700,000 typical American taxpayers are paying for the tax breaks the five companies--BP, Chevron, Conoco, ExxonMobil, and Shell--continue to defend. And that's not counting the other tax breaks the oil companies have managed to keep safe from Congressional attack.
"Nearly 700,000 Americans will file taxes today that will go directly to high-profit oil companies that don't need the breaks. That's like the entire population of Austin, Texas dropping their checks on the doorstep of Big Oil," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. "While Americans are filing their taxes, oil companies are filling their coffers with high prices and tax breaks paid for by American families. This administration's policy is tax breaks for oil companies, and tough breaks for American taxpayers."
Earlier this month, Chairman Markey and the Select Committee held a hearing with top executives from the world's five largest oil companies, which brought in over $123 billion in profits last year and spent more than $50 billion on schemes to prop up their stock prices. The companies are currently defending $18 billion in tax breaks that Congress is trying to shift towards renewable energy.
As part of a three-point plan to alleviate the strain on consumers and move America towards renewable alternatives to oil, Chairman Markey called on the Bush administration to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a 70,000 barrel a day clip to send a signal to oil speculators. He also called on the oil companies to increase their investments in renewable alternatives to oil and to drop their defense of billions in tax breaks.
At the April 1 hearing, Chairman Markey called on the companies to invest 10 percent of their profits into renewable energy alternatives to oil, noting that the bottom 20 percent of wage earning families in America are now spending 10 percent of their income on gasoline due to the current high prices. The five largest oil companies spent only about one percent of their profits on alternatives last year, with Exxon making more than $40 billion in profits, while spending just $10 million on research into alternatives to oil.
The House passed H.R. 5351, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008, on February 27, 2008. H.R. 5351 would repeal $18 billion over 10 years in tax breaks for the five largest oil companies and use those funds to extend key tax credits for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, biofuels and energy efficiency.