Obama accuses oil companies of profiteering

Gas prices above five dollars a gallon are seen on a sign at a gas station in Washington. Americans are down in the dumps. Even though the economy is slowly recovering from the Great Recession, unemployment remains near 9 percent. Gasoline prices have shot up to about $4 a gallon (almost a dollar a liter). That's about a third more than than just six months ago. It's pinching already tight household budgets. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

President Barack Obama says oil companies are profiting from rising pump prices and he wants Congress to end $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.

“These tax giveaways aren’t right,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. “They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.”

Drivers in 22 states are paying more than the national average of $3.91 per gallon. In Alaska, California and Connecticut, it’s $4.20 or more.

The price jump has slowed economic growth and hurt Obama’s public approval ratings.

Exxon Mobil Corp. this week reported nearly $11 billion in profits for the first quarter of this year. Competitors also had huge gains.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says he plans to consider Obama’s proposal as early as this coming week.

The president said money recouped from ending the oil and gas tax subsidies should go to new energy resources and research. He said he refuses to cut spending on clean energy initiatives.

“An investment in clean energy today is an investment in a better tomorrow,” he said. “And I think that’s an investment worth making.”

Obama’s critics say ending the subsidies would mean tax increases that would end up costing jobs.

“The president may think he’s punishing CEOs of big companies, but his plan will hurt the everyday consumer of energy and imperil the jobs of millions of hardworking people in American-based companies,” Rep. James Lankford, a first-term congressman from Oklahoma, said in the Republicans’ weekly address.

In his address, Obama said the economy was growing again and took note of nearly 2 million new private sector jobs in the last 13 months. But the president did not mention that the pace of the recovery slowed significantly in the first three months of this year. The nation’s economy grew at a 1.8 percent annual rate during that quarter, compared with 3.1 percent in the previous three months.

High gasoline prices, bad winter weather and steep government spending cuts were responsible for the slowdown.

Eager to show action on gas costs, Obama has pushed to stop the subsidies while also conceding that would not have an immediate effect on prices. He has also called for the Justice Department to investigate possible price fixing and said this week that he was also prodding oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia to increase production.

Lankford also said that Republicans would not vote to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, now at $14.3 trillion, in the coming weeks unless the measure also includes steps to cut government spending.

Presidents have agreed to such deals in the past, and Obama told The Associated Press in a recent interview that some spending restrictions might be necessary to win an increase in the debt ceiling. Without raising that limit, the government would default on its debts.

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Online:

Obama address: www.whitehouse.gov

GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/RepublicanConference

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

3 Responses to "Obama accuses oil companies of profiteering"

  1. Almandine  May 1, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    When oil companies are not spending money on exploration, more receipts become profits. With the dollar continually being debased, $11B sounds much bigger than it is and more than it would be in a stable currency environment.

  2. Lillibet  May 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Let’s see. Oil companies have excess profits.

    Someone has a keen sense of the obvious.

    Of course, when they don’t pay for the clean up after a disastrous spill, leaving the money in some vault or other, don’t spend what is needed for really safe exploration, and generally depend on speculators like commodities brokers to set their prices at retail while they are selling oil from contracts where the per barrel price is $30 per, of course they have excess profits.

    Duh.

  3. woody188  May 2, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Tired of these companies winning drilling rights only to sit on the land and do nothing. These contracts should include a provision to start drilling within two years or void the contract and not allow them to re-bid on the newly opened contract for a period of ten years.

    It costs $4 per barrel to pump oil out of the land. So why the huge markup to market?

    If these companies are ruining the recovery via pure greed, aren’t they the greatest threat to the security of the nation?

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