House of Pain: Government Locks Up on Fuel Price Plans

May 10, 2011


House Republicans and Senate Democrats derided each other’s responses to rising gasoline prices Tuesday, setting the stage for competing measures that could pass one house but stall in the other.

The House is focused on accelerating permits for oil and gas drilling and on opening up new areas where drilling has been off-limits for decades. A bill up for a vote in the House on Wednesday, if it became law, would open the waters off New Jersey to new leases as early as next year.

In the Senate, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez has support from Majority Leader Harry Reid for a bill he introduced Tuesday to eliminate some oil company tax breaks and subsidies. His plan would apply the $2 billion a year in increased tax revenue toward reducing the deficit, which this year is $1.5 trillion.

Republicans in the House, and the industry lobbying group the American Petroleum Institute, argued that raising taxes on oil companies would make things worse.

Menendez said that the five largest oil companies are projected to have $125 billion in profits this year, and there is no justification for the tax breaks he is seeking to eliminate.

“If the big five could just live … with $123 billion in profits in 2011, they could pay their fair share in taxes, help lower the deficit and not raise the price of gasoline,” Menendez said.

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Photo courtesy of ttarasuik and re-used under the Creative Commons license.