Throughout the election, Romney has campaigned specifically on prioritizing oil above other forms of energy, openly consulting with oil executives and donors on his energy policy. With a team led by an oil billionaire and fossil fuel lobbyists and industry campaign donations totaling $2.2 million, it’s unsurprising Romney has been largely quiet on oil subsidies. Romney’s energy plan to open more public lands to drilling and gut safety regulations would only help oil firms.
But at the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney backed away from his oil-soaked campaign by mentioning for the first time openness to ending certain subsidies for the oil and gas industry:
ROMNEY: Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives. And you say Exxon and Mobil. Actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies, to drilling operators and so forth.
But, you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why that $2.8 billion is on the table. Of course it’s on the table. That’s probably not going to survive you get that rate down to 25 percent.
The world’s five largest oil corporations, which include Exxon, receive $2.4 billion tax breaks annually, not the “small drillers” as Romney claims. Annual tax breaks for the entire oil and gas industry total $4 billion. The Center for American Progress details the specific deductions and tax breaks that oil companies receive at taxpayers’ cost.
The public overwhelmingly favors ending these permanent tax breaks, at the same time Republicans claim they don’t exist. While the five largest oil companies earned $137 billion profit last year, and $60 billion for the first half of 2012, they paid relatively low taxes, like ExxonMobil’s 13 percent federal effective tax rate.
If Republicans maintain the oil industry’s special tax breaks, Romney’s plan to lower corporate tax rates would provide the five largest oil companies with another $2.3 billion subsidy annually.