Senate Republicans Block Windfall Profits Tax on Big Oil Companies

Senate Republicans will not budge on taxing oil companies

Democrats fall eight votes short of preventing filibuster

[social_buttons]With gasoline prices topping $4 a gallon, Senate Democrats wanted the U.S. government to throttle back on the billions of dollars in profits being taken in by the major oil companies. But with the White House threatening a veto of the bill, the Senate voted 51-43 to close debate, well shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.

The proposed windfall profits tax would have been somewhere between 10 and 12 billion dollars for this year, and it would have been levied against the country’s five largest oil companies. The legislation would have also rescinded $17 billion in tax breaks the companies expect to enjoy over the next decade.

“The oil companies need to know that there is a limit on how much profit they can take in this economy,” said Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, warning that if oil prices are not reined in, “we’re going to find ourselves in a deep recession.”

A statement issued by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said, “Rather than addressing the principal cause of fuel price increases — rising world petroleum demand without a similar increase in supply — (the bill would) undercut U.S. energy security and decrease U.S. energy production, thus exacerbating market tightness and increasing energy prices.”

I find it quite striking that the White House is still claiming that the principal reason for the precipitous jump in oil prices is the rise in global demand, when according to Chevron Vice President of Strategic Planning, Paul Siegele, demand is not currently on the rise. Siegele raised this very point with me less than two weeks ago at a panel discussion at Stanford. (For more on the slowing of global oil demand, this article in MarketWatch reports on the International Energy Association’s projected slowdown).

Following the bill’s defeat, Democrats said they may work on separate legislation to increase oversight of trading by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Many argue that one of the principal drivers of rising gas prices is actually because of futures speculation on the commodities market. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that parts of the windfall tax bill including commission provisions could be split into separate proposals.

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Timothy B. Hurst

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.