Md. senator seeks end to oil tax breaks

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 16, 2011


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., is urging the executives of the five biggest oil companies to reject any more taxpayer subsidies in light of their nearly $1 trillion in profits over the last decade.

Last week, Cardin signed and sent a letter -- along with Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; Robert Menendez, D-N.J.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Bill Nelson, D-Fla. -- to the heads of Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco Phillips, Chevron Corp., Shell and BP America.

The senator, along with Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, was expected to hold a related news conference in Baltimore on Monday, The Associated Press reported.

In the letter, Cardin explained that he has co-sponsored legislation that would end $4 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks to the five oil companies.

The legislation, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act or S. 940, was introduced on May 9. Under the bill, the savings realized by ending the tax breaks and subsidies to the oil companies would be used for deficit reduction.

"The former President of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, had the courage to say, in no uncertain terms, that your companies no longer need these giveaways," the senators wrote in their letter. "We agree with the vast majority of Americans that taxpayer subsidization of your companies is no longer necessary.

"When many of these tax breaks were passed into law, oil was less than $20 a barrel. Today, the price of oil is hovering around $100 a barrel. Because of the exponential increase in the price of oil, the companies you successfully manage have reported a combined total of $36 billion in corporate profits in the first quarter of 2011 alone. That amounts to a staggering $2.8 billion per week of profit."

While families across the country are "being squeezed," the oil industry is "doing better than ever," the senators said.

"And yet the U.S. government continues to dole out $4 billion a year in tax breaks to your companies. These subsidies are not sustainable, and we intend to end them," they wrote.

Executives from the five oil companies were scheduled to testify about the proposal before the Senate Finance Committee, of which Cardin is a member, on Thursday.

"We are sure you will agree that our nation's mounting debt is a serious threat to our recovering economy," the senators wrote. "But if we are truly serious about cutting our deficit, it is imperative that we start by getting rid of wasteful and ineffective corporate subsidies that have outlived their usefulness."

Cardin said in a statement last week that the five oil companies "do not need, or deserve, a handout from the American taxpayer."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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