Targeting oil companies' profits as gasoline prices continue to rise, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) held a news conference in Toledo Sunday urging Congress to vote on ending tax breaks the companies receive for certain operating costs.
Speaking outside the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority's offices, Miss Kaptur urged House Speaker John Boehner (R., West Chester, Ohio) to allow the House to vote on President Obama's proposal to end $4 billion in oil-industry tax benefits. But she conceded that such changes would provide little immediate relief at the pump.
Mr. Boehner signaled interest last week in ending some tax subsidies for oil companies, but Miss Kaptur said he is now "backtracking."
"Oil company lobbyists are telling Speaker Boehner they can't afford to give up their tax breaks," she said. "He should listen to the American people instead."
Miss Kaptur displayed a chart showing the increase of profits for major oil companies from January through March. The profits included the $10.7 billion ExxonMobil reported. Americans are facing sticker shock at the pump, but "These companies are smiling all the way to the bank," she said.
The tax breaks include a deduction for the cost of drilling, along with oil and gas depletion allowances. The Obama Administration argues high oil prices provide ample profit motive to explore for oil and gas, and that the tax breaks are not needed.
Two rounds of price increases last week sent self-service regular rocketing past $4 a gallon at many Toledo-area stations, and a second round Thursday put local prices into the mid-$4.10s, close to the city's record set three years ago.
According to the Web site gasbuddy.com, gasoline in Toledo now costs about 18 cents more per gallon than the national average of $3.924, although some other parts of the country, including metro Detroit, have even pricier fuel.
The Web site issued a mass e-mail Sunday predicting that, because of a jump in the wholesale price on Friday and a refinery problem in Illinois, another pump-price increase is likely.
Skyrocketing gasoline prices since mid-February have been blamed on a combination of factors.
Those included rebellion in Libya and other civil unrest in oil-producing Middle Eastern nations, speculation in commodities prices, increased demand for oil in China, and the approach of the summer driving season in the United States.
While acknowledging that reducing the oil and gas companies' tax deductions would be unlikely to reduce retail gasoline prices, Miss Kaptur said the additional revenue could be used to reduce the national deficit or could be paid out in what she called a "consumer refund."
President Obama has proposed using the funds for alternative-energy programs.
Miss Kaptur said the United States' petroleum imports are a continuing strategic vulnerability, and she has supported alternative energy development as a route toward energy independence.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has said the Senate could consider the tax subsidy proposal this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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