By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Public Lands Project, Center for American Progress.
The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity is bringing its “Running on Empty” tour to Colorado this week, to discuss the “perils of the government regulating the oil industry.” In addition to its pro-polluter message, another of Koch Industries’ front groups has been at the helm of attacking Medicare. So, at yesterday’s rallies across the state, concerned Coloradans pushed back using a moving billboard to ask, “Big Oil Gets Tax Breaks, Grandma Gets Medicare Cuts?”
Against the backdrop of that billboard, Dan Gould, Chair of the Boulder County Democratic Party, summed up the message of the protestors, saying “it is not the case” that ordinary Americans want what Americans for Prosperity is advocating:
It’s amazing to me that they have been able to dupe enough Americans into believing that the oil companies somehow need to have even more subsidies than they do now at the expense of at the expense of ordinary citizens, at the expense of “Grandma” as this sign says. Grandma gets Medicare cuts, while oil gets tax cuts. That doesn’t make sense to me. And the thing that’s important is, these rallies are really just an extension of the Koch brothers’ lobbying efforts in Washington. They’re trying to make it look like ordinary Americans want to have high profits for oil companies at the expense of the rest of the American public. And that is not the case, it is clearly the case that the American people want to have fair taxation and not tax breaks for large corporations and for oil companies.
Protestors also called on the conservatives to help end the $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies that oil companies will get just this year, even though the Big 5 oil companies have already made $67 billion in 2011. Jeff Crank, head of the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, responded by telling the crowd that he too “couldn’t be more against subsidies to Big Oil companies.” He was not the only one from Americans for Prosperity to voice this opinion: Tracy Henke, the group’s national executive vice president, told the Longmont Times-Call that Americans for Prosperity does not support these corporate subsidies. But as the debt “super committee” begins its search for new forms of revenue, AFP has ignored this wasteful spending in its events this summer and instead completely focused on blaming the Obama Administration, calling for more places to be open to drilling and decrying regulation of any kind.
The Colorado activists speaking out against handouts to Big Oil at these and other Americans for Prosperity events across the country are part of a growing trend of citizens demanding that the group pay attention to subsidies and budget cuts, rather than focusing on the “absurd and deceptive message” about how more drilling will decrease gas prices, as one ProgressNow activist put it.
A poll sponsored by the Checks and Balances project released this week found that 79% of Coloradans favor reduced speculation and manipulation of markets in order to lower gas prices. Coloradans overwhelmingly support this crackdown, and 77% believe that fuel efficiency and reduced oil consumption will lower prices.
Relatedly, the number of rigs in Colorado has been steadily climbing since 2009, even though the industry is producing on only 32% of the federal acres that it has leased there.