Oil subsidies stay as GOP blocks Senate repeal

Source: Seattle PI

Seattle PI - Joel Connelly

The U.S. Senate on Thursday failed to overcome a Republican filibuster against legislation to repeal annual taxpayer subsidies that benefit the nation’s largest oil companies.

The 51-47 vote was not enough to invoke cloture and move to passage of the repeal, which was strongly endorsed by President Obama.  Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., both voted to end the subsidies.

The country’s three largest oil companies raked in $80 billion in profits last year, and Big Oil currently has an estimated $58 billion in cash reserves.  Each penny increase in gasoline prices translates into an estimated $200 million in additional industry profits.

The tax breaks to Big Oil total a about $4 billion a year.  The industry has “more than enough incentive” to continue and step up production and exploration if they are ended, President Obama argued in a White House speech Thursday.

“American oil is booming:  The oil industry is doing just fine,” said the President.  “With record profits and rising production, I’m not worried about big oil companies.”

Four Democratic senators — Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Jim Webb, D-Va. — voted against cutting off the Republican filibuster.  Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted to end debate.

The money saved would have gone mainly to increase federal investment in clean energy technologies.

Sen. Cantwell, at a hearing Thursday, put her thumb on Wall Street speculators as partially responsible for driving up oil prices, and argued that it is time to get “asset class investors out of this market.”

Sens. Cantwell and Begich will appear together Friday at the Seattle Aquarium to ask for a federal response to Japanese tsunami debris floating across the Pacific Ocean.