Fortune magazine is out with its Fortune 500, its annual ranking of America's largest and most powerful corporations. In pole position is Exxon, whose profits in 2011 rose 35 percent to $41.1 billion. A good haul, by any definition. Only Walmart stood in the way of a clean sweep by oil and gas companies at the top of the leaderboard, with Chevron ($26.9 billion profit) and ConocoPhillips ($12.4 million profit ) taking spots 3 and 4.
So with oil companies making more money than in the history of money, why do Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan continue to support taxpayer giveaways to these massive corporations? Oil companies enjoy about $4 billion annually in federal tax subsidies, and Ryan's budget, which Romney supports, preserves these giveaways while cutting back on Medicare, Medicaid, education, and other vital services.
When you factor in subsidies for gas and coal, fossil fuel companies will enjoy about $113 billion over the next 10 years in government handouts. In case you are curious, that $113 billion would buy about 2.8 million Chevy Volts (at about $40,000 per car) and would weatherize about 45 million U.S. homes.
Defenders of these subsidies will tell you that if we get rid of them, gas prices will go up and we will curtail American oil exploration. Here's what the experts say: Guess again. Gas prices are set at the global level in a global market, so removing subsidies here would have no effect on prices. In fact, a 2009 study from the non-partisan Resources for The Future found that if subsidies were cut, the average person would spend, at most, just over $2 more each year on petroleum products. I can probably afford that and I bet you can, too.
And disrupting American energy production? Probably not. Ask yourself: Are the oil, coal and gas going to suddenly move to the North Sea? My guess is that with subsidies or not, Exxon will still want at the fossil fuels here.
Want another reason to end these subsidies? How about the fact that fossil fuels are cooking the planet? In June, 3,215 daily high temperature records were set; so far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires. Step 1 to solving the climate crisis is to stop funding the corporations that are causing the problem. Step 2 is to actually charge polluters for polluting and to use that money to grow our clean energy economy. Even ExxonMobil admits that we need a carbon tax but our Congress hasn't gotten it done.
So as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan crisscross the country this summer and fall, calling President Obama a reckless socialist who wants to grow government, just remember that it's Romney and Ryan that want to keep the flow of taxpayer money going to the country's richest corporations, not the president.
To find out about what you can do about this, and to learn more about the Sanders-Ellison bill to end all fossil fuel subsidies, please visit www.endfossilfuelsubsidies.org.