Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Windfall Profits Tax Killed By GOP, Give-Aways Continue Unmolested

Senate Republicans have once again protected their patrons in the oil industry from a windfall profits tax:

The Senate fell nine votes short of the 60 required to proceed to debate on the Democrat-sponsored energy measure, which would have erased $17 billion in tax breaks for oil companies over 10 years and created a levy on "unreasonable" profits collected by the five largest U.S. oil companies. Only six Republicans voted to move ahead.

Of course we'll have another bite at the apple next year, likely with an increased Senate majority and a President Obama, who's already promised to make the petro-kings pay:

I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills.

But for all the sturm und drang about the windfall profits tax, nobody is raising a peep about this $53 billion rip-off:

If oil and natural gas prices stay as high as they've been in recent months, the government could lose as much as $53 billion over the next 25 years in energy royalties because of an adverse court ruling, according to congressional auditors.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report released Thursday that the soaring price of crude oil and natural gas also means the windfall that companies will enjoy from the court ruling also could increase by billions of dollars.

In October 2007, a federal court ruled in a claim originally filed by Kerr McGee Corp. that the government cannot require companies that are exempt from paying royalties on oil and gas taken from federal land and waters to pay them if market prices reach a certain level.

And how did we get ourselves in such a ridiculous situation?

The case is based on a claim filed by Kerr-McGee, which was purchased by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., in 2006.

Anadarko had argued successfully that the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service had overstepped its authority when it imposed royalties on oil and gas taken from deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico under a royalty relief program enacted by Congress in 1995.

Congress at the time provided the royalty break for deepwater exploration to encourage energy development in those areas. The Interior Department contends it had the authority to lift that royalty relief once prices reached a certain level -- prices that are far below what crude oil and natural gas is now costing.

I'd like to see some legislative action to stop giving away publicly owned petroleum to the oil profiteers for free. How 'bout you?

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