Ron Wyden has long been a big supporter of progressive energy policy within the Senate. He’s on CSPAN-2 right now passionately filibustering against the "outrageous boondoggle" (as he calls it) for the oil companies that his amendment seeks to take away. It’s quite heroic.
This is the thing we always encourage Democrats to do. This is something worth standing for. He’s going straight after the onerus Gail Norton right now. I urge you strongly to turn on your television sets, because cable news outlets aren’t covering it. Contact your Senator and tell them you support this.
What does the Wyden Amendment do?
It prohibits the Department of Interior from providing any additional royalty relief as long as the price of oil is above $55 per barrel while providing an exception in cases where royalty relief is needed to avoid supply disruptions because of hurricanes or other natural disasters.
Why do we need this Amendment?
With oil selling for more than $70 a barrel — $15 a barrel higher than at the price the President said incentives weren’t needed — Congress should not continue giving away more taxpayer money for unnecessary subsidies to benefit profitable energy interests. We should prohibit further royalty relief and save our citizens hardearned tax dollars for more worthy uses. President Bush has repeatedly said that “With $55-a-barrel oil, companies don’t need incentives to explore for oil and gas.” Today, the price of oil is well over $70 per barrel and yet oil and gas companies continue to receive taxpayer subsidies to explore. According to U.S. News & World Report the Federal government will “dole out $7 billion in breaks to the oil industry over the next five years.” And if that isn’t bad enough, the amount of that subsidy “could increase fivefold.”
How much do these subsidies cost?
We’re talking about subsides for oil and gas companies of as much $35 billion. That would pay for one-third of the cost of the Supplemental Appropriations bill now on the Senate floor. This supplemental had to be designated as emergency spending because we don’t have the money to pay for it, and yet we can afford to give away tens of billions in subsidies to profitable energy companies. Under the Energy Bill signed into law last summer, oil companies were given new subsidies in the form of reduced royalty fees for the oil and gas they extract from Federal lands, including off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Under laws already on the books before the Energy Bill was enacted, oil and gas industries were on tap to get at least $1.4 billion a year in tax breaks and other subsidies for total of $6 billion in taxpayer subsidies over the next five years. Now, with the Energy Bill signed into law, oil and gas interests will get another $2.6 billion of additional tax breaks and a variety of subsidies on top of what they were already slated to receive.
Wyden has been on the floor since early this morning. He wants an up-or-down vote on his amendment that will force people to go on the record for big oil company tax breaks; the GOP wants to force it into committee where it will, of course, die.
I met Wyden last year at a party given by Ellen Nagler where RJ Eskow played country music. This issue is one he is very passionate about. He richly deserves our support.
Update: Carla from Loaded Orygun has more.