WASHINGTON - Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing a measure to end more than $35 billion in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.
The Vermont independent today proposed putting $25 billion in savings toward reducing the deficit and $10 billion toward the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program over five years. Such funds help municipalities build windmills, make energy efficiency improvements or improve sewer treatment plants.
"If there is anything we should be learning from the Gulf disaster, it is that it is time to move aggressively away from polluting and unsafe fossil fuels, which are getting more and more difficult to produce as we move further and further offshore to drill for them," he said in a statement. "And, with a $13 trillion national debt, the last thing we need to be doing is giving tax breaks to big oil and gas companies that have been making record-breaking profits year after year after year."
Sanders said all of the oil and gas tax breaks that his measure seeks to repeal were targeted for elimination in President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget. Sanders argued that instead of using their profits to invest in renewable energy and prevent oil spills, oil and gas companies are primarily using the money to buy back their own stock and enrich their CEOs.
On Tuesday, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and other House members sent a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward urging him to suspend dividend payments and advertising campaigns until the Gulf Coast is cleaned up from the oil spill.