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Gasoline prices of more than $7.00 per gallon are posted at a downtown Los Angeles gas station on March 9, 2022. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

120+ Groups Urge Pelosi and Schumer to Embrace Windfall Tax on Big Oil

"The oil and gas industry will reach near all-time records for stock buybacks in 2022," the advocates wrote in a letter to the congressional leaders. "It is time for the profiteering to stop."

Brett Wilkins

More than 120 advocacy groups on Tuesday urged Democratic congressional leaders to support proposed legislation that would levy a new tax on Big Oil "to provide relief to consumers from rising prices and prevent fossil fuel corporations from exploiting the current energy crisis for profit."

"Consumers need relief from price gouging—relief that a windfall profits tax can provide."

"As families across America grapple with rising energy prices, we urge you to enact a Big Oil windfall profits tax," the groups write in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "We need solutions that will provide communities the relief they need now, and we must hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for their profiteering."

"The oil and gas industry will reach near all-time records for stock buybacks in 2022, indicating that consumer pain at the pump is translating into handsome rewards for Wall Street investors," the letter continues. "The individual wealth of executives has also increased with reported stock sales from oil and gas CEOs, reaching nearly $99 million in just the first weeks" of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

"All the while, the industry remains one of the most heavily subsidized sectors of our entire economy, expected to receive $121 billion in tax giveaways over the next decade," the signers note. "It's time for the profiteering to stop."

As Common Dreams reported last month, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) introduced the Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax in response to fossil fuel corporations profiteering off the Russian invasion.

Under the proposed legislation, companies that produce or import at least 300,000 barrels of oil per day would be subjected to a per-barrel tax equal to 50% of the difference between the current price of a barrel of oil and the average price per barrel between 2015 and 2019. The proceeds from the tax would be distributed quarterly to individual consumers who earn less than $75,000 annually and joint tax filers earning under $150,000.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to go even further. While presiding over a committee hearing on inflation Tuesday, the democratic socialist pushed for a 95% tax on windfall profits for businesses with more than $500 million in annual revenue, asking, "Is it appropriate that during this pandemic, during the war in Ukraine, during all of this instability, that this be a moment in which large corporations continue to enjoy huge profits?"

Speaking at the hearing, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich said a windfall profits tax "is exactly what is needed right now."

"When oil companies, for example, are showing, as they are, historical profits, they are making huge amounts of money. They are raising prices at the pump at the same time," he said. "They don't need to raise those prices. A large portion of that money is going to executives and major investors, so you want a windfall profits tax that stops them from doing that and actually rebates that money to consumers."

"The American Petroleum Institute wasted no time in seeking to exploit the crisis in Ukraine," the letter states, referring to the leading U.S. fossil fuel lobby group. "They are using this crisis to tout the need to increase domestic production, including expanding leasing on our public lands and waters, expediting infrastructure permitting, and increasing exports."

"The related problems of inflation and volatile commodity prices can only ultimately be solved with a swift transition away from fossil fuels," the groups continue. "In the short-term, however, consumers need relief from price gouging—relief that a windfall profits tax can provide."

Such a tax is overwhelmingly popular among U.S. voters regardless of political affiliation. According to a survey conducted last month by Hart Research and published by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), 80% of Americans support the policy.

"It's abhorrent that oil and gas CEOs and their allies are taking advantage of Putin's war on Ukraine and this humanitarian crisis and raising prices to line their own pockets while families shoulder the cost," said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president of government affairs at LCV, one of the new letter's 126 signatories.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Climate Law Institute at the Center for Biological Diversity—another signatory—said that "Americans need relief from high energy prices, and Big Oil's runaway profits are exactly where they should get it. This bill pushes back on oil companies' despicable attempts to capitalize on this crisis."

"Big Oil has fueled the climate emergency and Putin's war machine," she added. "They must pay for the pain they've inflicted on us all."

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