Big Oil subsidies have maintained a relatively low profile during fiscal showdown negotiations. But there is some chance the oil industry’s $4 billion annual subsidies could be on the chopping block in a deal. The first indication Republicans may possibly budge, after repeatedly blocking votes on the issue, came late in the election when House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) said, “Let’s look at the oil and gas subsidies, let’s take them away. Let’s let them compete just like everyone else at the same level.”
Like many of his GOP colleagues, the oil and gas industry is one of Upton’s top industry donors. He has received nearly $450,000 from the oil and gas industry over his career in the House, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Interestingly, when Upton said he would look at oil subsidies, Big Oil sent last-minute contributions to the candidate. New campaign filings show that since Upton made his comment early in October, he received several new donations from oil companies:
— ExxonMobil PAC gave $5,000 on 10/23, bringing its total for Upton this cycle to $10,000.
— Valero Energy gave $5,000 on 10/24.
— Petroleum Marketers Association of Americas gave $4,000 on 11/5.
— Marathon Oil COO Dave E. Roberts gave $2,500 on 10/29.
— ConocoPhillips PAC gave $1,000 on 11/5, bringing its cycle total to $8,000.
Upton’s leadership PAC raised another $47,000 from the oil and gas industry this cycle, drawing $25,000 from Valero Energy and $10,000 from Koch Industries, among other oil and gas companies. Overall, he raised $4 million and spent more than $4.5 million to defeat his challenger Mike O’Brien.
There are a few clues indicating how seriously to take Upton on ending oil subsidies: Post-election, Upton hired America’s Natural Gas Alliance lobbyist Tom Hassenboehler as a senior aide, who has also served as counsel for the Senate’s infamous climate denier James Inhofe (R-OK). And polluter groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also campaigned on Upton’s behalf, touting his record of protecting Big Oil and its tax breaks.