Detroit News: Sen. Levin: Oil companies ‘getting away with murder’: 05/09/08
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
Levin and other Democrats have backed a proposal dubbed the Consumer-First Energy Act.
“The oil companies are getting away with murder. Their profits are achieved at the pain and suffering of the American people,” Levin said.
The Democratic proposal would roll back $17 billion in oil industry tax breaks over 10 years, impose a 25 percent windfall-profits tax on oil companies, halt government purchases of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and would attempt to reduce speculation.
Today, oil prices dropped slightly after setting a new record.
Oil fell $1.33 to $122.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after hitting a new record high of $123.93 a barrel.
Gas prices nationally now average $3.61 a gallon, up 8.5 percent over the last month, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
The bill faces an uphill battle. Last December, the Senate failed to end debate on a bill to roll back oil industry tax breaks.
The American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry trade group, said raising taxes “would do nothing to alleviate the tight global crude oil supply-demand balance that contributes to high prices.” The group argued it “would threaten U.S. jobs and penalize the millions of retirees and workers whose pension funds, IRAs and 401(k)s are invested in oil and natural gas company stock.”
The five largest oil companies posted $36 billion in profits for the first three months of the year.
ExxonMobil reported $10.9 billion in first-quarter earnings — the second highest quarterly profit in U.S. history, behind Exxon’s fourth quarter last year.
The Senate is expected to vote Monday or Tuesday on whether to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — a proposal that has won support from Republicans. Most Republicans want to increase domestic oil exploration, including allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
“The public clamor for action on gas prices is as loud as any plea from the public has been in the last many, many years,” Levin said. “There is real pain and suffering going on here.”
Levin said oil companies are gouging Americans and he sharply criticized the White House for not doing more to prompt steps to reduce gas prices.
“The president of United States works hand-in-glove with the oil industry,” Levin said. “If the president of the United States would call the oil companies into the Oval Office and say you guys have one week to get these prices down or else (the president) would support a windfall profits tax, you would see those prices go down.”
Levin said he could support a temporary gas tax holiday if it were adopted along with a windfall profits tax on oil companies in order to make up the lost transportation revenue. A gas tax holiday — which could cost the U.S. Treasury $11 billion — has been supported by presidential candidates Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
Clinton’s rival Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, opposes a gas tax holiday.