So, by now you’ve heard President Obama making his case for Congress to end oil subsidies – something you’re probably down with standing there watching $4 plus a gallon waste away at the gas pump. This move could give him the upper hand against Republicans who usually gain politically when gas prices rise. The jury is out.
In Nashua, New Hampshire, President Obama appeared to challenge the crowd: “Eliminate this oil industry giveaway right away. I want them to vote on this in the next few weeks. Let’s put every single member of Congress on record: You can stand with oil companies, or you can stand with the American people. You can keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, or you can place your bets on a clean energy future.”
Last year a bill to end oil subsidies was defeated in the Senate along a mostly party line vote. Democrats have been pushing hard to end the oil subsidies for months, arguing that taxpayer dollars should not … more like do not need to be used to prop up an industry that is logging record profits – while Republicans have largely argued in support of keeping the subsidies in place.
Worth noting is polling from November showing only 2% of Republicans strongly support subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. So it could be argued that the Congressional GOP is out of step with its own base on the issue. Where’s the Tea Party when you need it?
Looking more broadly to how Americans feel about fossil fuel subsidies, only 3% strongly support them, 27% somewhat support them, while 39% somewhat oppose and 31% strongly oppose these subsidies.
While we don’t know for certain if ending these oil subsidies will alleviate prices at the pumps (it’s actually been argued that subsidies lower the price for consumers), we do know that ending oil subsidies is part of the larger narrative about closing corporate tax giveaways and loopholes. Money saved in ending these subsidies could be used elsewhere to further develop alternative fuels that may lessen the demand for petroleum.
But the argument that President Obama is gearing up to unleash on the campaign trail is that the average Joe pays $4 + for a gallon of gas and then his tax dollars are also given to this profitable industry. It’s an argument he’ll need, politically, because it’s hard for voters to not look at the guy in charge when your money ends up in the gas tank.
At the same time, the Republicans will be faced with having to defend these largely unpopular subsidies while big oil continues to post fat profits.