By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress
Groups of westerners in California, Nevada, and New Mexico recently staged events to call for an end to government handouts to Big Oil. These activities come as discussion of oil subsidies as a potential source of revenue for the country heats up. The newly-created Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “super-committee,” had its first meeting last week, and ending oil subsidies could be on the table. Additionally, President Obama’s American Jobs Act includes the elimination of oil and tax breaks as an important pay-for measure.
Activists focused their attention on elected officials in Congress, who have the power to eliminate subsidies to profitable oil companies. As an organizer in a video courtesy of Progress Now Nevada put it:
We’re here today to send a message to Nevada Senator Dean Heller and anyone else in Congress that thinks it’s a good idea to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to these huge oil and gas corporations at the expense of Nevada seniors. So take action today and tell Senator Dean Heller it’s time to stop giving away the store to big oil and gas and it’s time to start protecting Nevada seniors.
Activists have employed a variety of tactics to get their message across to members of Congress and educate the public. Nevadans put up a billboard on a well-traveled highway between Reno and Carson City. Demonstrators in California held a rally at a local gas station and attended a town hall meeting for Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) carrying their anti-subsidies message. And New Mexicans highlighted the work of Representative Martin Heinrich (D-NM) on oil and gas as a “voice of reason” in Washington and urged other members of Congress to speak out too.
The work of these citizens builds on the success of other events in Montana and Colorado this summer. The overall sentiment that Big Oil companies should pay their fair share is supported by national polling, which found that 74% of Americans support ending subsidies to oil and gas.
The Big Five oil companies raked in $67 billion in just the first half of this year. As Congressman John Garamendi said in a statement supporting a rally in his district, “I believe it is foolish to find savings as some have proposed – by ending commonsense environmental regulations, by cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits, by laying off teachers, by cutting off funds to needed infrastructure – when we can easily save $44 billion right now by ending wasteful subsidies to Big Oil.”