Environmentalist wants Congress to back ‘Big Oil’ tax

Local environmental activists are calling on Democratic U.S. Rep. Tampa Kathy Castor to support legislation that would tax the excess profits of big oil and gas companies, which they say are linked to soaring crude oil prices.

They want to see the revenue generated by the tax go to consumers in the form of rebate cheques.

What do you want to know

  • A recent poll conducted by Hart Research for the League of Conservation Voters found that 80% of Americans support a windfall tax.
  • Legislation sponsored in Congress by Democrats would tax excess profits from big oil and gas companies that can be attributed to the recent spike in crude oil prices, and use those revenues to give back to consumers affected by high gas prices.
  • Activists are calling on Tampa Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor to support a bill called the Big Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act. Castor co-sponsors legislation that asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate price manipulation in the gasoline market

“It’s certainly not the solution to the problem, but it’s something that can make a difference and start hitting our common enemy, big oil, right now,” Florida organizer Brooke Errett said. with Food & Water Watch.

The legislation – sponsored in the House by California Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna and in the Senate by Rhode Island Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – would levy a quarterly tax on big oil companies and distribute the revenue to consumers through a rebate. quarterly.

The tax per barrel would equal half the difference between the average oil price before the pandemic from 2015 to 2019 and current prices, according to Rollcall.com.

Errett was part of a coalition of environmental activists – which included the Tampa Bay Climate Alliance, the University of South Florida Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Florida Student Power Network, eco- Tampa Socialists DSA and Sunrise Tampa — who staged a protest against the “Big Oil” industry Tuesday afternoon at a Mobil gas station near the USF campus in North Tampa.

“What the legislation would do is take the record profits, or windfall profits, that the big oil and gas companies made during the COVID crisis and the war in Ukraine, and it would tax them heavily,” Errett said Saturday then. that she was joining other activists designing posters for use in protests on Tuesday. “It would take that money that they overcharged us — the ordinary American paying for gas at the pump — and then give it back to us through stimulus checks.”

“Joe Biden is not to blame for these extraordinary gas prices,” added Monica Petralla, co-chair of the Eco-Socialists group of the Tampa Democratic Socialists of America. “The real deal is profit. Which is unacceptable at any time, but especially in times of crisis like the one we are experiencing.”

Gas stations have become hotspots for political activity this year as gasoline prices soar. GOP candidates such as Anna Paulina Luna have staged voter registration drives to blame Democrats for the crisis.

The idea of ​​a windfall tax has been criticized by companies and energy groups.

“The price at the pump that Americans pay is a function of an imbalance of supply and demand combined with geopolitical unrest and political uncertainty in Washington,” says Gifford Briggs, director of the Pacific Coast region. Gulf at the American Petroleum Institute. “Instead of pointing fingers, lawmakers should focus on policies that increase supply, including full restoration of federal leases and action on a 5-year offshore program to ensure continued exploration and of production in the central and western Gulf of Mexico.”

Alex Muresianu, a federal analyst at the Tax Foundation, said there are years when oil companies are extremely profitable, and some years when they aren’t, referring to 2020 when the coronavirus had people stuck at home. and not in their cars. .

“The fact that there are higher profits at a time when supply levels from overseas are tight is kind of a natural reward to get people to invest and produce more,” he said. he declared.

A survey conducted by Democratic pollster Peter Hart for the League of Conservation Voters showed strong support for a windfall tax.

Although Castor has not followed through on the request to support a windfall tax, it is a co-sponsor of legislation that would require the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible gas price manipulation. Other sponsors of the legislation include Orlando Rep. and US Senate candidate Val Demings).

“Americans are tired of being overcharged at the pumps by Big Oil CEOs who use billions in profits to enrich their shareholders,” Castor said in a statement sent to Spectrum Bay News 9. “This needs to stop. That’s why I introduced legislation with Congresswoman Val Demings to protect Americans’ wallets by exposing price-gouging practices and removing the ability of oil and gas executives to profit in times of crisis. to fight in Congress to switch to clean, cheap energy, which remains the best way to reduce energy costs for Floridians.

Castor is considered an influential voice on energy issues in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Since 2019, she has chaired the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.