Members of Congress have some tough choices to make during the fiscal cliff negotiations. But as they look for ways to bring in additional revenue, there's an easy decision that will save billions every year -- finally ending those taxpayer-funded handouts to the oil companies. It makes good fiscal and common sense for those at the top -- like Big Oil -- to pay their fair share. But right now Big Oil's Congressional allies are pushing hard to protect these special tax breaks for dirty energy companies, who are busy polluting our air and waterways.
Every year, we send the oil industry $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies. That means that Congress has the chance to save us more than $40 billion over the next 10 years alone if they end these tax breaks for the oil industry, whose companies are some of the most profitable on the face of the planet. So far this year, Big Oil has already recorded more than $90 billion in profits.
Instead of hiring, the oil companies have been using our tax dollars to pad their soaring profits. In fact, from 2005 to 2010, four of the biggest oil companies raked in over $500 billion in profits while laying off over 11,000 workers in the U.S.
The American people know it's time that Congress stop sending their tax dollars hand over fist to the oil companies. A poll released late last month following the election asked voters in the swing state of New Hampshire how they wanted lawmakers to address the fiscal cliff. The poll found that voters wanted Congress to take a balanced approach, with a strong majority -- 80 percent -- saying they favored getting rid of the subsidies for Big Oil.
Instead of siding with the majority of the public and ending these handouts, corporate polluters and some members of Congress are fighting to keep them on the books. If Big Oil's congressional cronies had their way, we'd preserve these subsidies while slashing programs that protect our environment and our health.
Environmental programs make up just 1.25 percent of the national budget, but under the extreme plans pushed by some on Capitol Hill, they'd be on the chopping block and funding would be rolled back even further. That would mean eliminating tax credits that have helped the wind industry grow, starving our National Parks of funding, cutting programs for clean energy research and innovation, undermining efforts to clean up contaminated waterways, and ending programs that support more than 130 National Wildlife Refuges.
Cutting funding for these national priorities would cause real harm to our air, water, lands, and wildlife, which is not what the American people expect from leaders in Washington. Last month, they sent lawmakers a clear message at the ballot box. Across the country, candidates who stood by the environmental community and a clean energy agenda -- including President Obama -- were overwhelmingly elected, while candidates tied to oil and coal companies lost.
This isn't just good politics, it's good policy that strengthens our economy. The wind industry alone has created over 75,000 jobs, but many of those jobs will be at risk unless Congress acts to renew the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit.
Instead of further cutting environmental programs that are already starved for funds, Congress should end subsidies to Big Oil and stand up for clean energy. As talks on the fiscal cliff continue, leaders on Capitol Hill should side with the American people over Big Oil. It's time that Congress finally ends the billion dollar handouts to the oil companies.