Shilling for big oil at a House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) declared that, just like “little mom and pop drillers,” multinational corporations deserve to write off billions in tax breaks if they don’t hit oil.
Shimkus defended the $4 billion annual tax breaks the industry receives, claiming the oil giants — that collected a combined $137 billion in profits last year — should write off some drilling as a “business expense”:
Just because you have a lease, it doesn’t mean there’s oil underneath there. You have to look for it. It takes capital expense … I’m tired, I’m really tired of this attack on drilling. Because my little mom and pop drillers, all they want to do is if they don’t hit the well, they want to record that as an expense. That’s all this tax break for big oil is. If they don’t hit, they don’t count it as an expense. You can write it off as a business expense if you drill and you don’t hit the oil. That’s all it is.
Now multiply that to a multinational corporation and it’s the same thing. If they go deepwater drilling and they don’t hit, should they not write that off as a business expense? Sure they should. Just like my mom and pop should do it locally.
What he doesn’t note is that the five oil giants have plenty of excess capital to spend on developing leases. At the end of 2011, they were sitting on $60 billion in cash reserves and spent $38 billion on stock buybacks. They could easily spend some of this $100 billion on exploration.
Not surprisingly, Shimkus’ donors include some of the same big polluters, like Exxon Mobil. Oil and gas is Shimkus’ fifth-largest donor this election cycle and he’s collected a $311,000 career total from the industry.
At a GOP-led hearing already stacked with oil and gas spokesmen like American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers President Charles Drevna, the focus was less on gas prices and more on protecting oil subsidies.
The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) recently began a major advertising and outreach campaign to advocate for various environmental regulations and has targeted Republican attempts to delay regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. EEN specifically appealed to one of the GOP’s most fervent ideological positions, saying, “We believe protecting the unborn from mercury poisoning is a consistent pro-life position.”
Despite those attempts, “pro-life” lawmakers like Reps. Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Ed Whitfield have blasted the proposed regulation as “far-left liberal ideology.” And this week, more than 30 advocates from the religious right, led by notables like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, slammed EEN for its attempts to protect the environment, the unborn, and any human who could be affected by poisonous mercury emissions:
The 30-plus religious-right advocates, in a joint statement Wednesday, said that “most environmental causes promoted as pro-life involve little threat to human life itself, and no intent to kill anyone.”
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) criticized the Rev. Mitch Hescox, EEN’s president, at Wednesday’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the EPA rule, which Republicans and some business groups call burdensome.
“The ‘life’ in ‘pro-life’ denotes not the quality of life, but life itself. The term denotes opposition to a procedure that intentionally results in dead babies,” said Shimkus, echoing the statement from the conservative leaders.
The House energy committee is seeing an intense leadership fight, as four different Republicans are vying to become take over the influential post from Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who shepherded progressive climate legislation to the House floor in 2009, before it foundered in the U.S. Senate. The four candidates — Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) — all want to reopen the floodgates for a deregulated fossil fuel industry. But precisely how reactionary the committee will become — whether investigations will be launched against climate scientists and all clean-energy efforts killed — could depend on which fossil-fueled Republican wins the intraparty fight.
The frontrunner Upton is the only candidate who doesn’t explicitly question the science of manmade global warming, though he is opposed to any policy action. It remains to be seen if the new GOP caucus — dominated by climate deniers — will accept Upton’s marginally realist stance, or if denial of science will be a litmus test.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is the seniormost member eligible to take over the committee. In 1990, Upton voted for the Clean Air Act, enacting a cap-and-trade system to limit the sulfur pollution that causes acid rain. Now, however, although Upton admits “we need to reduce emissions” of greenhouse pollution, he opposes “cap-and-tax,” he said in April 2009:
A cap-and-tax, cap-and-trade will essentially kick American families when they’re down. I do believe that we need to reduce emissions, but it needs to be done in a commonsense way that takes into account the economic and global realities of the issue.
Appearing at the Copenhagen climate conference last December, Upton reiterated his position that somehow greenhouse pollution be be lowered without explicit limits:
I think we can lower our emissions. I think the world will be better off if we did that, and we can do it without cap and trade.
Seeking the chairmanship, Upton is remaking himself as a Glenn Beckian conspiracy theorist (“It is also quite unfortunate that Van Jones, the former Green Jobs Czar, avoided congressional scrutiny and could not be questioned on his alarming associations with the so-called “9/11 truther” movement or on his radical leanings”) who will hound Obama climate advisor Carol Browner:
Because Browner serves as a Czar, she has not been subject to the customary Senate confirmation hearing in which her philosophy on transparency could be examined. This circumvention is wholly unacceptable, especially given Browner’s wide-ranging legislative portfolio and influence within the administration. She was the Obama administration’s point person for a massive economy-killing national energy tax in the form of a cap-and-trade scheme. Thankfully, the American people did not fall prey to the administration’s climate gimmicks and had their voices heard at town halls across America last summer. . . .
House Republicans pledge to conduct vigorous oversights of the Obama administration next year if the American people entrust us with the Majority. With Republicans at the helm and exercising its authority to oversee activities of the executive branch, we will restore the public trust and subject this White House and its dozens of czars to the scrutiny that taxpaying Americans expect and deserve.
Upton’s top donor is nuclear waste giant EnergySolutions ($38,800), with other major donors including Michigan utilities CMS Energy ($22,750) and DTE Energy ($16,900). His leadership PAC distributed $129,000 to other Republicans, which should help him in the chairman’s battle.
I think this is the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve lived through some tough times in Congress — impeachment, two wars, terrorist attacks. I fear this more than all of the above activities that have happened.
Shimkus is a Koch Industries candidate ($18,500 this cycle), and his top contributor is nuclear giant Exelon ($20,000). Other top donors include the coal-using National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and American Crystal Sugar ($10,000 each). His leadership PAC only distributed $25,500 to fellow Republicans.
Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) has been angling for the energy committee chairmanship for months. Like Shimkus, his main strength against Upton is that he is a hard-right ideological conservative. Stearns has been a strong proponent of expanding drilling, claiming falsely that “ANWR alone would be capable of reversing the decline in U.S. petroleum supply within a decade.” Stearns responded to the BP oil disaster: “The Challenger and the Columbia disasters did not end our space program and this spill should not be the end of our domestic energy production.” In 2007, Stearns gave a floor speech promoting the “global cooling” myth:
Not everyone sounded the alarm about global cooling in the seventies, just like not everyone is sounding the alarm about global warming today. Madam Speaker, the fact that so many experts were wrong about global cooling in the seventies does not necessarily mean that they are wrong about global warming today, but it does at least show that experts are sometimes incredibly, incredibly wrong.
I think all of us realize we’ve got to control CO2 and that we have various ways to do it. … My position has been anything we can do to control and regulate is good, but do it through the private sector. The energy policy I’m talking about isn’t on global warming; it’s making us self sufficient.
Stearns’ contributions mostly reflect his position as the top Republican on the telecom committee, although he has received $5000 each this cycle from Progress Energy and and Peabody Energy. His leadership PAC has contributed a measly $2,500 to four House Republicans.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the top Republican on the energy committee, will need a waiver from GOP leadership to return to the chairmanship. Yesterday, he “sent out letters to the incoming 60-and-counting Republican freshmen asking them for support,” which rail against “radical cap-and-trade legislation” and the “rotten core” of Obama’s health care legislation. Most recently famous for apologizing to BP, Barton thinks global warming is “natural“:
Barton is a sponge for oil and coal money. This cycle, his top donors include coal giant Murray Energy ($20,990), Koch Industries ($18,000), coal utility PPL Corp ($17,500), Valero Energy ($15,000), Exelon ($14,000), DTE Energy ($13,500), Exxon Mobil ($12,000), American Electric Power ($10,000), and a raft of industry trade groups. His leadership PAC has distributed $88,500 to fellow Republicans.
11/10: The Wonk Room has discovered that Fred Upton is a climate zombie as well.
Progress Illinois’ Josh Kalven reports that at an Illinois state fair this past week, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) fully embraced the GOP’s “party of no” obstructionist strategy. Shimkus stated that the Republican “chant for now until Election Day” should be “Just Say No!” “We’ve been saying no for a long time,” he noted. “When President Obama was on the ballot, the Republican response was, ‘Just say no!‘” Watch it:
Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH) are long-time foes of gay rights, scoring 0 from the Human Rights Campaign in the 110th Congress. However, both will be holding fundraisers at the upcoming July 11 Billy Joel/Elton John concert in Washington, DC. Elton John, as the Sunlight Foundation notes, “has been a vocal advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and for global gay rights (see his foundation here, and attempts to raise public awareness here).” Shimkus and Schmidt, in contrast, support a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. In 2005, Shimkus also hosted another Elton John fundraiser.
In a confused monologue, Shimkus attempts to follow new Republican talking points and portray himself as a defender of the little guy against corporate greed. But he can’t stop himself from also praising the corporations as his friends:
We’re fighting for the ratepayer. This debate is: “Who protects the ratepayer?” The corporate titans are my friends! I’m a Caterpillar supporter. I’m an Exelon supporter. I’m an Ameren supporter. A lot of these companies that have negotiated deals, they support me. But I know that they’re in the room to protect shareholder wealth, the wealth of the bond holders, the wealth of the stockholders. And that’s okay.