November 15, 2005

Wyden Moves to Repeal Excessive Oil Company Tax Break

Big oil company executives told Wyden last week that tax break foroil, gas exploration included in Energy bill this year is unnecessary

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today successfully won the repeal of an unneeded tax break for large, integrated oil companies for additional energy exploration by offering an amendment to Tax Reconciliation legislation considered by the Senate Finance Committee. The Committee today approved Wyden's measure to scale-back a tax incentive included in this year's Energy bill, which oil company executives last week told Wyden they did not need. The chief executives of Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BPAmerica and Shell Oil each told Wyden at a joint hearing of the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees last week that they agreed with a statement by President Bush earlier this year that when the price of oil exceeds $55 a barrel, the oil companies do not need additional incentives for oil and gas exploration. The price of crude oil is currently at over $57 a barrel. In response, Wyden today offered the amendment to limit an incentive originally included in the Energy bill (H.R. 6) enacted earlier this year by exempting major oil companies from being able to claim the tax break. Recent reports have shown that the five companies earned more than $25 billion in profits during the most recent quarter. "It defies common sense for the Congress to be shoveling tax breaks at big oil companies when even the executives say they aren't needed," said Wyden at today's markup. "The laws don't restrict tax breaks to the producers - they apply to everybody. So today's modest action starts the long march to start to reform the tax breaks as they relate to the oil industry, and limits these incentives to the smaller oil companies that actually need the help the most." None of the executives questioned by Wyden last week said they would be opposed to his efforts to seek the repeal of a tax break for oil companies' expenses relating to oil and gas exploration. This summer Wyden voted against the final version of the Energy Bill, arguing it was full of tax-giveaways to oil companies. Wyden's amendment today was another move toward greater fiscal responsibility and a smarter energy policy by targeting tax incentives for those companies who need help the most.