Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) — who famously apologized to BP after the disastrous spill in the Gulf — now thinks that the term “Big Oil” is mean to the oil industry. Yesterday, executives from the Big Five oil companies testified before the Senate Finance Committee to defend their taxpayer funded subsidies in an often contentious hearing. In defense of the Big Oil executives, Barton told a C-SPAN interviewer that the media shouldn’t use the phrase “Big Oil” because it’s “upsetting”:
First of all, I don’t think it should be a pejorative. We’ve got this mentality on the liberal side of our political debate: Big Oil, Big Insurance, big this, big that. We compete in a global economy, and the biggest company, Exxon Mobil, is only the fifth largest oil company overall, because the other four are run by governments. It should be something of a badge of honor that we still have companies that can compete internationally. It’s a little upsetting that we try at the beginning to make it a pejorative.
Contrary to Barton’s statement, “big” is an undeniably understated way to describe the industry – from its profits, to its campaign contributions and even its mistakes. For eight years in a row, Exxon Mobil was listed by Fortune 500 as the most profitable company in America. Combined, the Big Five Oil companies raked in over $32 billion in profits in just the first three months in 2011. The Big Five oil companies make more than one trillion dollars in revenues every year. And over the past decade, those same Big Five oil companies made a combined $900 billion. Since 1990, the oil and gas industry has spent more $270 million in congressional campaign contributions, and in 2010 alone, spent $145 million on lobbying.
Perhaps the only thing that’s not big about Big Oil is its tax rate. A Center for American Progress analysis revealed that from 2008–2010, ExxonMobil’s effective federal tax rate came in at 17.6 percent, less than the average American’s federal rate in 2007. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that an ExxonMobil spokesman“conceded that the company had a net federal income tax credit of $156 million in 2009.” Yet the American taxpayers subsidize these companies with $4 billion in tax breaks every year. Read more