Its the Same Old Song: Oil Money Secures the Support of Congress

SACE Communications Coordinator, Jeannie McKinney, contributed to this blogpost.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate came up short (yet again) in an effort to end billions of dollars in tax subsidies to oil companies. Despite President Obama’s plea that Senators consider the financial impact that $4 billion in subsidized tax breaks are having on our economy, the motion to repeal these subsidies was nine votes shy of the necessary 3/5 majority. This vote was a double loss for the American people because removing these unnecessary subsidies would have been a small step in leveling the energy playing field. However, with Big Oil and Big Coal commandeering the bulk of subsidies and incentives, it’s difficult to see how we will make a meaningful policy shift to renewable energy and energy conservation in the near term.

Like previous attempts to rollback Big Oil tax breaks, support for or against this measure was primarily along party lines, with only six senators crossing the aisle.  I find it incredulous that so many of our elected officials can continue to defend billions of dollars in subsidies that go to companies posting record profits quarter after quarter, in part fueled by steadily rising gas prices. In the Southeast, only Sens. Hagan of North Carolina and Nelson of Florida voted to repeal these unnecessary tax breaks.

What a simple vote count can’t show you, however, is that most of the Senators who voted to maintain these subsidies didn’t just vote along party lines: they voted for their financial backers. Whether its ExxonMobil’s $5 million or BP’s ‘paltry’ $1.5 million, Big Oil’s money generously greases the halls of Congress in an effort to protect the status quo and their rich profits. And the dirty energy money doesn’t stop with liquid gold: Big Coal is even more generous with donations to politicians, with the South’s own Southern Company near the top of that list through nearly $5 million given since 1999. These donations have a price – quid pro quo if you will – and so Congressional leaders continue to promote dirty energy as policy even though the majority of Americans favor more funding and support for clean energy alternatives. So once again, it looks like the American people and businesses will have to lead and wait for Congressional officials to follow public sentiment and market trends when it comes to renewable energy and energy conservation.

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I understand how money talks. The untold story is the many people who’s health is being compromised throughout the United States with coal ash facilities so close to their homes. The human misery stories abound. But the greed wins out, yet again. You can’t take the money when your gone folks, I’d hate to have to explain my actions in the hearafter. I live near a ash containment facility and it is filthy, we have pockets of dirty air, children are sick. I’ve reduced my carbon footprint, I conserve, and I wish for the day when sustainable energy is the only source, but when tax breaks abound for these huge oil and coal companies, can it ever really materialize? Doesn’t the 99% have any clout?

Comment by Kathy Little on March 31, 2012 11:05 am

Hi Kathy – thanks for your comment, and we share your frustration that powerful interests who benefit from the energy status quo are among the biggest obstacles to clean energy production and energy efficiency promotion. There are upcoming opportunities to ‘connect the dots’ for policy makers and elected officials and ensure your voice is heard – I would strongly encourage you to be involved in both/either of these actions that SACE is supporting:
Climate Impacts Day through on May 5:
Hands Across the Sand on August 4:

This website might not change our energy mix, but using it might help you feel a little better:

Comment by Jennifer Rennicks on April 3, 2012 4:55 pm

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