11/02/2011 12:25 pm ET Updated Jan 02, 2012

Big Oil Doesn't Need Handouts

Here's a scary fact: Last year, the biggest five oil companies alone scored $76 billion in profits.
And here's an even scarier fact: Last year, the oil industry received more than $4 billion in tax breaks.

These numbers don't lie -- it's clear that Big Oil doesn't need billions in handouts.

That's the message we're sending today on Capitol Hill as we join forces with lawmakers to urge an immediate end to the subsidies and tax loopholes that fill the coffers of oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron.

In case you need further proof that these companies have enough money to pay their fair share of taxes, Exxon just reported $10 billion in profits this quarter, a 40% increase over last year, and Chevron reported almost $8 billion, double last year's profits for this quarter. We simply can't afford to give handouts to Big Oil; in fact, our federal deficit is growing as a result of these irresponsible tax breaks.

These figures are especially troubling considering our current economic outlook. Regular Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and these companies should be paying their fair share -- God knows they can afford it.

Meanwhile, the threat of oil spills in our oceans continues, putting our coastal economies, tourism and wildlife at risk. We are, in essence, paying oil companies to take disastrous risks in our oceans. This week BP received permission to drill a new well 1,000 feet deeper than the infamous Macondo well from last year's disastrous blowout a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico. It's only a matter of time before another spill stains our shores with oil.

So why have these senseless handouts persisted for so long? Because of a myth that many people find irresistible -- that we can drill our way to lower gas prices. If we just provide the right incentives, the myth goes, then we can bring gasoline down to $2 a gallon.

But that's a fantasy, and here's why: Any American oil found by these companies will be sold to us at the world market price for oil. BP doesn't give Americans a deal on the oil they find in the Gulf of Mexico. And likewise, Shell won't sell us cheap oil because we kindly let them drill in our Arctic. They sell their oil to the highest bidder.

Instead of subsidizing oil companies that pollute our oceans and warm our planet, we ought to be investing in a clean energy future.

Andrew Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana, the largest international ocean conservation group. He will deliver remarks at today's press conference at Upper Senate Park at noon. Ted Danson is an actor, author and board member of Oceana

This post originally appeared at Talking Points Memo.