In the normal course of a conversation, labeling anything un-American generally conjures a vision of communists or a foreign entity acting contrary to the best interests of the United States. In the neo-conservative world, un-American means holding corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Americans accountable to pay their fair share like the rest of the population. For Republicans and big oil, un-American means eliminating tax breaks and subsidies to the industry that posts increasingly obscene record profits every quarter. There is one absolute in Republican politics; they will go to any lengths to defend, protect, and serve the oil industry. What is really un-American is giving Americans’ hard-earned tax dollars to big oil and lying to expedite a dangerous, ill-advised pipeline to enrich the foreign oil industry. Yesterday and today, two related events highlight the need for Americans to speak out to break the stranglehold big oil has on America and notify Republicans that it is time for them to stop being un-American and to start working for the people; not the oil industry.
Monday, President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 called for repealing billions of dollars in gas and oil industry tax breaks and subsidies that will save approximately $39 billion over the next decade. The Obama Administration countered oil industry arguments that eliminating big oil’s entitlements will discourage domestic oil production. The President’s budget plan states, “Oil and gas subsidies are costly to the American taxpayer and do little to incentivize production or reduce energy prices,” and that “Removing these lower-priority subsidies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate $38.6 billion of additional revenue over the next 10 years, an amount that represents only a small percentage of domestic oil and gas revenues — about one percent over the coming decade.” The plan signals the President’s bigger message on green energy that “Repealing fossil fuel tax preferences helps eliminate market distortions, strengthening incentives for investments in clean, renewable, and more energy efficient technologies.”
President Obama’s budget plan will raise about $11.6 billion over ten years by ending big oil’s profitable deduction on domestic manufacturing income and an estimated $13.9 billion by ending oil company’s tax right-offs for certain drilling costs. The oil industry immediately pushed back and claimed “Increasing our taxes would push oil and natural gas investment overseas and diminish job-creation and economic activity here at home.” The industry’s argument sounds suspiciously identical to Republican rhetoric promoting the Keystone XL pipeline, and it is clear now who John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are parroting in pushing the foreign oil pipeline.
Today, Senate Republicans are threatening a vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline through their standard hostage-taking scenario despite overwhelming evidence that the Canadian project will do nothing for America; even Fox News reported Keystone was a horrible idea. The oil drunk Republicans and some Democrats are willing to bypass State Department evaluation processes, National Interest Determination, and environmental reports to enrich a foreign oil company by attaching Keystone approval to a transportation bill. Last Thursday, the Office of Inspector General recommended reforms after finding procedural lapses and a previously undisclosed financial relationship between TransCanada and CardnoEntrix, as well as insufficient scientific expertise within the department. CardnoEntrix is the third-party environmental contractor for the proposed pipeline owned and operated by TransCanada. It is not surprising there were undisclosed financial relationships to push the pipeline; John Boehner owns stock in seven Canadian tar sand companies and he stands to profit financially if the pipeline reaches fruition. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering an investigation into share manipulation and there is a petition calling for his resignation and admission that he is lying about the Keystone XL pipeline’s jobs potential and fuel supply benefits.
The pipeline will create, at best, a few thousand temporary jobs and the Canadian oil will be sold on the foreign market according to TransCanada. There are no benefits to the American people and instead of helping fuel prices, TransCanada reports it will increase them because the pipeline will drain off oil reserves as it passes through prime agricultural land. The potential for environmental catastrophe cannot be overstated according to the petroleum industry and Canadian regulators who rejected TransCanada’s permit to build the pipeline to the West Coast. In fact, another TransCanada pipeline spilled 12 times in one year, and in Michigan two years ago, the Lakehead pipeline system ruptured and crews are still cleaning up the mess because it was carrying tar sands oil. The difference between tar sands oil and regular crude is that tar sands oil sinks instead of floating. In Montana, more than 1,000 barrels of oil “spewed into the Yellowstone River after Exxon Mobile’s Silvertip pipeline burst during heavy flooding in the region in July,” and cleanup crews only recovered less than 1% of the spilled oil. There is no safe pipeline despite oil industry and Republican claims to the contrary.
Republicans assailed the President’s 2013 budget proposal for not slashing entitlements, but they conveniently omit that the oil industry receives entitlements that the President wants to eliminate. It is patently un-American to take Americans’ tax dollars and give them to extremely profitable oil companies when the country’s infrastructure is crumbling and one-in-two Americans are living below or near poverty level. It is also un-American to use American soil to transport foreign oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast for shipment to China, Europe, and South America; especially when the pipeline’s country of origin prohibits transporting tar sand crude over their own land. Most of all, it is un-American for all Republicans and a few Democrats to put the interests of the oil industry over the best interests of the American people, but that is what happens when legislators live in an oil-induced stupor.