Cantwell Votes to End Unwarranted Big Oil Subsidies

Cantwell: ‘Taxpayers shouldn’t have to fork over their hard-earned dollars to pad the bottom line of big oil companies’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) released the following statement regarding her vote to end subsidies to big oil companies. The Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act failed on a largely party line 52-48 vote.

“Ending over $20 billion in taxpayer-funded giveaways to big oil shouldn’t even be a question. Oil companies are some of the most profitable businesses on the planet; they don’t need any more incentives to drill when the price of oil is $100 a barrel, and we are facing record budget deficits. It is simply incomprehensible for anyone to defend these subsidies – some which have been around for decades – as a wise use of our resources. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to fork over their hard-earned dollars to pad the bottom line of big oil companies, and that’s a position I’ve taken since day one in this office. In 2008, I led an effort to take away some of the oil companies’ tax breaks and invest in clean energy. I plan to keep fighting to completely end these unwarranted subsidies. 

“American taxpayers are already burdened by $4-a-gallon gas, while oil companies made nearly $36 billion in the first three months of this year alone. Taxpayers deserve to know they’re paying a fair and market-based price at the pump. That’s why I continue to press the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to implement overdue rules to rein in excessive speculation that is behind much of today’s artificially elevated oil and gas prices.”

Cantwell has been an advocate for reining in excessive oil speculation, calling on federal regulators in recent months to implement overdue rules in the energy futures markets. Numerous experts have concluded that excessive trading in oil futures is causing oil price volatility unrelated to supply-and-demand fundamentals, and contributing to rising gas prices.

Last week at a Finance Committee hearing, under questioning by Cantwell, the CEO of Exxon Mobil admitted that oil should cost around $60 to $70 per barrel, if the price were based on supply and demand fundamentals. Oil was trading at $95 per barrel Tuesday morning.

Cantwell also demanded last week that the CFTC issue a plan by May 23rd detailing how it intends to immediately implement overdue rules on speculative position limits in all energy futures markets. In a bipartisan letter led by Cantwell and signed by 16 other senators, Cantwell asked that the CFTC begin implementation in the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures market.

The 2010 Wall Street Reform bill called for the CFTC to implement speculative position limits in energy markets within 180 days of enactment. The CFTC is more than four months late on its January 2011 deadline to take action, while consumers continue to pay high prices at the pump. 

In late 2008, Cantwell led efforts to pass a landmark bipartisan clean energy package to spur job creation and help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. For the first time, under Cantwell’s leadership, Congress voted to take some of the subsidies away from the five biggest oil and natural gas companies and reinvest those dollars to accelerate America’s transition to a cleaner, renewable energy system.