On Thursday, March 29, the Senate failed to advance the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act (S. 2204), legislation introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D – NJ) which seeks to repeal several tax breaks for large oil and gas companies and apply the money to fully offset paying for a one-year extension of renewable energy tax credits and incentives, including a popular wind energy program.
The vote to limit debate on the bill fell short of the required 60 votes at 51-47, with four Democrats – Mark Begich (AK), Mary Landrieu (LA), Ben Nelson (NE) and Jim Webb (VA) – breaking with their party and voting no. The two Republican Senators from Maine, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, also diverged from their party’s stance by voting in favor of advancing the bill.
Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped to use this vote to put Republican Senators on record, in an election year, as lending support to big oil. Many Republicans, on the other hand, claim that their lack of support for the bill stems from fears about gas and oil prices rising for consumers if these tax breaks are repealed. Most advocates and the Administration believe this fear to be unfounded, as big oil’s profits are currently hitting record highs – in 2011, the five largest oil companies (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell) brought in an astounding $137 billion in profits, 75 percent higher than in 2010 (click here to read more).
The Administration supports the passage of S. 2204, which over 10 years would repeal $21 billion in tax breaks for these companies, with the belief that these tax breaks are unnecessary in a time when the oil industry is reporting outsized profits. A Statement of Administration Policy declared that “this money can be better spent promoting domestic manufacturing, encouraging the development of clean energy technologies that will reduce our dependence on oil, and cutting the deficit” (read more here).