Durbin: $4 Gas Prices are a Wake-Up Call for Nation

Says eliminating tax breaks for big oil companies will save $33 billion over next ten years

[Chicago, IL] “Our addiction to oil is costing American families millions at the gas pump while enslaving us to political dictators in the Middle East and North Africa,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. “These rapidly rising prices are a wake-up call for our nation.”


Gas prices are nearing a two-year high and continue to rise. Here in Chicago, prices are pushing $4 per gallon in many spots and have risen by 11 percent—36 cents—in just the last month.


“Working families just starting to recover from the recession are being hit with a one-two punch. They’re watching helplessly as the money they need so badly in their own pockets is being sent to the wealthy big oil companies and oil-rich countries in chaos,” Durbin said.


“While it’s been a tough month for consumers, it’s been a great month for the oil industry. When oil sells for more than $100 a barrel, as it is today, there’s really only one group in the United States that wins: Big Oil. It’s one industry that isn’t struggling to make a profit in this challenging economy. Last year, the top five oil companies made $75 billion in profits, even after the $17 billion losses reported by BP after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,” Durbin said.


“Every year, the large oil companies take advantage of tax breaks and sweetheart deals on drilling rights that cost the federal government billions of dollars,” Durbin said. “I think it’s time we change that. I’m supporting legislation that would roll back those tax breaks for the big companies, protect the small players in the industry and charge companies that are drilling on federal land when oil prices are too high. It is a reasonable bill that will save us $33 billion over ten years.”


Durbin noted that America’ dependence on foreign oil continues, with the United States importing 11.5 million barrels of crude oil every day to support its domestic oil consumption. At current prices, the U.S. is spending more than $1 billion a day supporting oil-rich countries in politically tumultuous regions.


“America’s energy dependence puts us at the mercy of political dictators in the Middle East and North Africa. And it forces us to help fund them. That’s why I’ve urged the President to open our emergency oil storage, called the strategic petroleum reserve, if needed, to stabilize gasoline prices.”


“But the strategic petroleum reserve is not a long-term solution. To gain real energy independence and break our addiction to foreign oil, we need to continue to invest in energy innovation and research,” Durbin said.


He noted that the spending bill proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1) would take the opposite approach, and cut $750 million from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This represents a 35 percent cut from last year’s funding level. In addition, H.R. 1 freezes funding for important research projects that are making new technologies commercially feasible. Innovative energy research projects, including those at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, would be stalled or permanently cancelled as a result of these drastic funding cuts.