Obama to end tax subsidies for oil companies

Washington: US President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Congressional leadership to take immediate action to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and to use those dollars to invest in clean energy and reduce America`s dependence on foreign oil.

Obama shot off a letter to the Congressional leadership in this regard after the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, expressed openness to eliminating these tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry.

High oil and gasoline prices are weighing on the minds and pocketbooks of every American family, Obama said adding that while the economy has begun to recover, with 1.8 million private sector jobs created over the last 13 months, too many Americans are still struggling to find a job or simply just to pay the bills.

"The recent steep increase in gas prices, driven by increased global demand and compounded by unrest and supply disruptions in the Middle East, has only added to those struggles.

"If sustained,these high prices have the potential to slow down the pace of our economy`s growth at precisely the moment when we need to be accelerating it," Obama said.

"While there is no silver bullet to address rising gas prices in the short term, there are steps that could be taken to ensure the American people don`t fall victim to skyrocketing gas prices" over the long term, he said.

"One of those steps is to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks to the oil and gas industry and invest that revenue into clean energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," he said.

The outdated tax laws currently provide the oil and gas industry more than USD 4 billion per year in subsidies, even though oil prices are high and the industry is projected to report outsized profits this quarter, Obama said.

"In fact, in the past, CEOs of the major oil companies made it clear that high oil prices provide more than enough profit motive to invest in domestic exploration and production without special tax breaks.

"As we work together to reduce our deficits, we simply can`t afford these wasteful subsidies and that is why I proposed to eliminate them in my FY`11 and FY`12 Budgets," he said.

Observing that the political system has for too long avoided and ignored this important step and hoping that Congressmen can come together in a bipartisan manner to get it done, Obama said they need to get to work immediately on the longer term goal of reducing the country`s dependence on foreign oil and America`s vulnerability to the price fluctuations this dependence creates.

"Without a comprehensive energy strategy for the future, we will stay stuck in the same old pattern of heated political rhetoric when prices rise and apathy and neglect when they fall again," Obama said.

Obama said he recently laid out his approach in a comprehensive blueprint for a secure energy future, which included safe and responsible production of domestic oil and gas resources and doubling fuel efficiency in the transportation sector, while investing in everything from wind and solar energy to biofuels and natural gas.

"None of you will agree with every aspect of this strategy. But I am confident that in many areas, we can work together to help show the American people that we can make progress on an energy policy that creates jobs and makes our country more secure," he said.

The US President hoped the Congressional leaders could all agree that instead of continuing to subsidise yesterday`s energy sources, the US needs to invest in tomorrow`s.

"We need to invest in a 21st century clean energy economy that will keep America competitive. In the long term, that`s the answer. That`s the key to helping families avoid pain at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil," Obama said.