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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1229, Putting the Gulf of Mexico Back to Work Act, and Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1230, Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, today the House considers the BP respill bills. That might not be what they are officially called, but it's a much more accurate title for this legislation. It's clear that the authors of these BP respill bills did not learn any lessons from the Deepwater Horizon disasters. These bills would make offshore drilling more dangerous for offshore workers, 11 of whom died on the Deepwater Horizon. These bills would make offshore drilling more dangerous for the environment, which was coated with 4.1 million barrels of oil along the Gulf Coast and is killing fish and wildlife in the area to this day as a result of BP's recklessness.

These bills would make offshore drilling more dangerous for our national security because they reinforce the complete myth that America can somehow drill our way out of dependence on oil. And these bills are more dangerous for the economy, risking destroying fishing and tourism jobs in affected areas.

But one thing these bills do not do is make filling up at the pump any more affordable at all for American families. According to the American Petroleum Institute itself, the main advocacy group for oil interests, even if we opened all Federal land to oil drilling, including offshore areas, including Alaska's wildlife refuge and all Federal land that is in the national parks, they can't even say that it would reduce gas prices or oil prices. In fact, the cheap oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, which calculates gas prices for AAA, the motorist organization, said: ``This drill, drill, drill thing is tired. It's a simplistic way of looking for a solution that doesn't exist.''

So if this legislation isn't about reducing the price at the pump, what is it about? It's about exploiting our legitimate concerns about high gas prices to deliver another huge giveaway to Big Oil, an industry that made over $35 billion in profits in the last quarter alone. Meanwhile, the majority refuses to end Big Oil's nearly $50 billion of special interest tax breaks.

Yesterday in the Rules Committee, Mr. McGovern brought forth a bill that would have ended the giveaway of tax revenue to Big Oil. Unfortunately, the Republican majority chose not to allow that amendment in this rule.

Had that been allowed under the open rule that Mr. McGovern proposed, I would have brought forth an amendment on the floor to use those $50 billion of revenue to reduce the corporate tax rate to help create jobs in America. Instead, the Republican majority is continuing to seek to keep American taxes high, to keep corporate taxes high, and this is another example of a job-destroying bill that keeps taxes high while picking winners and losers in the economy and using government subsidies to aid an industry that is one of our most profitable industries.

We should allow American businesses of all sizes to compete. The America corporate tax rate of 35 percent is higher than most of the rest of the world, which is why many companies continue to engage in operations overseas. If we can reduce it from 35 percent to 30 or 28 or 26 percent--and we could have done had Mr. McGovern's amendment passed in the Rules Committee yesterday, and that is one of the reasons I oppose this rule today--that would create an enormous engine of economic growth.

While frequently the Republicans give lip service to lower taxes, they continue to use special interest tax breaks to keep taxes high on small- and middle-sized American companies that don't have the same lobbyists here in Washington to lobby us for special interest tax breaks.

We know that Big Oil would rather do without the fuss of showing that they can drill safely; but that's what this bill, in fact, delivers. This legislation states that the Interior Secretary must act on any drilling permit within 60 days, or it's automatically approved. What should be a very serious process to ensure safe drilling, to ensure that there aren't further disasters, and to ensure that jobs are not destroyed turns into little more than a rubber stamp, a rubber stamp for the further degradation of our economy and of our environment.

The second bill this rule makes in order claims to restart the process, or issuing, of oil and gas leases. Now, what the majority is doing in this is essentially validating what the administration has already done. The administration has already restarted offshore drilling in February. In fact, the administration has announced plans to offer all three Gulf of Mexico lease sales that are mandated in this bill this year or early next year. Again, this particular policy is one that I don't agree with fully with the administration, but I am glad to see that the Republican majority is validating President Obama's leadership on this energy issue.

Together, these bills will not relieve pain at the pump, but they will increase the chances of another Deepwater Horizon disaster, costing lives, livelihoods, and hurting some of our precious natural resources. Why? Because that's what Big Oil wants. If Big Oil wants to keep taxes high for American companies, if Big Oil wants to destroy jobs, then the Republican majority is giving them that. In fact, even the problem the majority purports to be addressing with these bills, the speed of permitting in the gulf and restarting offshore oil drilling, doesn't even exist.

Here are the facts: Following the temporary pause on deepwater drilling last year, what Secretary Salazar listed in October, the oil industry wasn't able to demonstrate that it possessed the capacity to contain a deepwater blowout until February 2011. Once oil companies demonstrated that they had the capability to contain a blowout, the first permit was issued 11 days later, February 28, 2011. There have now been a total of 10 deepwater drilling permits issued since that time. In addition, there have been 39 shallow water permits approved since last October, matching the number from before the spill. Let me repeat that: matching the number of permits from before the spill. If anything, the majority, by acting through this bill, is effectively congratulating the administration on its leadership for speedily approving permits.

In addition, in the gulf region, the number of jobs that depend on tourism and fishing is five times the number of jobs related to the oil and gas industry. Gulf jobs related to oil and gas and other resource extraction total about 154,000. The total number of jobs for tourism and fishing are 777,000 jobs. So with this bill, the majority is putting at risk those 777,000 jobs for the benefit of 154,000. We should not put them at risk just to make the permitting process easier for Big Oil to exploit.

Passage of these bills is not good for the gulf coast's economy or its ecology, although it is best for Big Oil.

Again, while I appreciate the Republican majority's efforts to validate the leadership of President Obama on energy issues, this rule could be a lot better. Rather than keeping corporate taxes high, we could help make America more competitive by reducing corporate taxes and helping make American businesses more competitive, including the critical tourism and fishing industries in the gulf coast.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. POLIS. Mr. Speaker, with regard to the subsidy issue, the simple fact of the matter is that the Republicans are not for free markets. But what they are for is Big Oil co-opting free markets. In fact, 70 percent of all energy-related subsidies go to fossil fuels like oil and coal. Less than 5 percent of subsidies go to renewable energies like wind and solar.

The gentleman from Utah pointed out that many of these subsidies help small drillers, and, in fact, that can be true. But it is easy to apply changes only to the Big Oil companies and not even affect independent producers.

There's simply no excuse not to end this corporate welfare which keeps taxes for all Americans who pay their taxes artificially high. In fact, at the same time that BP was reaping sizable tax benefits from leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig, it turned out that the company was using the tax break for the oil industry to write off 70 percent of the rent for Deepwater Horizon. That tax subsidy cost American taxpayers $225,000 a day since the lease for Deepwater Horizon began. And that's just one example of many.

I also want to address some misperceptions regarding President Obama's policies regarding oil resources. The Obama administration is allowing, on average, more drilling than the Bush administration did. In fact, the Obama administration approved more leases in 2010 than the Bush administration did in any year except one of his presidency.

Again, in moving forward and reissuing permits, which the administration has already begun to do, this bill helps validate President Obama's leadership on this issue.

The real issues at hand are the subsidies that the industry continues to receive. As long as we continue a policy of using taxpayer dollars to artificially pick winners and losers in the economy, the winner here being Big Oil, the loser being American taxpayers, we will continue to hurt energy security, destroy jobs, and continue to put our environment at risk.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. POLIS. I yield myself the balance of my time.

With regard to the last comment, it is the oil cartels that drive prices, not the normal functions of the market and supply and demand.

With regard to the oil subsidies, Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity here today to see where the Republicans and the Democrats in the House stand on deficit reduction. Mr. Speaker, by defeating the previous question, we can and we will reduce the deficit by over $12.8 billion. We have the chance to have the discussion around the continuing resolution, around the budget, around deficit reduction. And here we have an opportunity, without impacting the price of oil, without impacting what consumers pay at the pump, to reduce the deficit by $12.8 billion by defeating the previous question. I think that's what the American people want to see.

The American people spoke out in the last election. Let's reduce the deficit. Let's work across the aisle to see what we can do to cut unnecessary government expenditures, to make those decisions to help make sure that we can leave something other than a legacy of debt to the next generation.

I think, Mr. Speaker, this is an easy one. Let's defeat the previous question and reduce the deficit by $12.8 billion.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to submit for the Record a document from the Treasury Department which states that the manufacturing deduction for oil and gas effectively provides a lower rate of tax with respect to a favored source of income. In fact, it distorts the market by encouraging more investment in the oil and gas industry than would occur under a neutral system.

Again, by returning to the free market, we are able to reduce the deficit by over $12.8 billion instead of having Big Government trying to pick winners and losers in the economy with regard to tax policy.


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