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Big Oil Lobbies to Keep Its Tax Breaks Off the Table in Debt Talks

10:04 AM PDT on July 15, 2011

Deron Lovaas is the federal transportation policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. This story is cross-posted on his blog.

As debt negotiations continue in Congress, President Obama appears to be sticking to his guns on repealing the enormous tax breaks enjoyed by the oil and gas industry. The industry takes advantage of tax breaks dating back to the dawn of the oil age – the kind of fiscal encouragement intended to support nascent businesses, not consistently profitable ventures.

Getting rid of tax breaks for the multi-billion dollar oil industry is one of the few debt-reduction schemes that people can cheer about. Even George W. Bushsuggested rolling back tax breaks for the oil industry in 2006. Why has Congress not managed to follow through on a popular idea that would create billions of dollars of yearly revenue for the government (and that could be sensibly plowed into the underfunded transportation program)? In part because of the efforts of The American Petroleum Institute (API), the powerful trade association thatlobbies on behalf of the oil and natural gas industry.

API’s job, like that of any trade association, is to cater to the lowest common denominator – to protect lagging companies and maintain the status quo that will allow them to stay in business, no matter how outdated their business model is.

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