The oil companies invest paltry sums in renewable energy and biofuels, despite claims to the contrary and record high profits last year. In February the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Chevron made $18.7 billion in profits last year. According to the article 2007 was “the fourth consecutive year that the San Ramon company made record amounts of money.” Shell made $27.6 in profit, British newspaper the Guardian reported in January. ExxonMobil raked in $40.6 billion in profits,
U.S. News and World Report reported in January.
Last month the Congress held hearings on gas prices. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming grilled oil industry executives about high gas prices and investing in renewables and biofuels.
Committee Chairman Rep. Markey (D-MA) told oil executives, “The poorest Americans are now spending an average of 10 percent of their income to pay for gasoline. We need the companies here today to make a similar commitment to American families and pledge to invest at least 10 percent of their profits in renewable energy and biofuels.”
Chevron Vice President Peter Robertson told Markey, “The enormous scale of the energy system means that we must continue to bring traditional energy supplies to the market.”
Markey asked ExxonMobil’s senior vice president, Stephen Simon, “How much have you invested in renewable energy, Mr. Simon, in 2008?”
Simon replied that current renewable fuels do not have “any kind of appreciable impact on the challenge that we are trying to meet.” Simon later acknowledged that ExxonMobil spent “a very modest amount” on renewables.
Markey challenged the oil companies to invest ten percent of their earnings into renewable energy.
Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) said she hoped oil companies would “do right by these profits” and “advance new, cleaner technologies.” If they did not, she said, “You will also see a backlash from this Congress that could go further than the elimination of tax breaks.”
Taxing oil companies
Triple Pundit writer, Pablo Paster pointed out in January that the U.S. government “subsidizes all petroleum fuel with over $49 billion in military expenses to ensure the flow of Persian Gulf petroleum resources, the equivalent of $1.17 per gallon.”
In February the House passed the “Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008,” or H.R. 5351, which would restore taxes on oil companies in order to invest in renewable energy. The Act extends the “income and excise tax credits for biodiesel” through 2010. The bill is now before the Senate. President Bush vowed to veto the legislation if passed in the Senate.
Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) said, “In addition to making us better stewards of the environment, this is also vitally important to protecting our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Done responsibly, it can also spur economic growth and create tens of thousands of new good-paying green collar jobs.”
Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a statement in support of the Act. “The bill extends and expands tax incentives for renewable electricity, energy and fuel, as well as for hybrid cars, and energy efficient homes, buildings, and appliances,” the statement said. “It does not add to our deficit, but rather repeals $18 billion in tax subsidies for Big Oil companies.”
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), member of the House Committee on Science and Technology and its Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment, said, “I believe we need to move towards energy independence both for our national security and for the safety of our planet. That is why my sixth vote in the 110th Congress in support of H.R. 6 was to repeal subsides for oil companies and invest those funds in renewable energy.”