LUMBERTON — U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre is taking on Big Oil.
McIntyre is a co-sponsor of the Gas Rebate Act, a bill pending in Congress that would eliminate gasoline subsidies for oil companies and put the saved money back into the economy to help families and businesses offset the costs of having to pay higher prices at the pumps.
McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton, told The Robesonian in a statement that the bill makes good sense for the people of Robeson and surrounding counties.
“The purpose of this policy is to return to the American taxpayer the money that would otherwise be given to the oil companies in an effort to help families deal with the pain at the pump,” he said. “The Gas Rebate Act will end the subsidies provided to oil companies and convert them into a direct rebate for owners or lessees of registered vehicles. This means that a two-car family in Robeson County would, under this proposal, receive a $320 check in the mail from the IRS.”
McIntyre said that subsidies — tax credits initially provided oil companies to explore and develop untapped energy supplies, as well as encourage companies to take risks to discover and develop more resources — are not necessary.
“The top five oil companies in the United States made $137 billion in profits and do not need taxpayer subsidies. By taking the dollars that otherwise would be given to oil companies and returning them to the American taxpayer, this policy will help the bottom line of North Carolina families,” McIntyre said. “A two-car family receiving $320 back from the taxes that they paid to the government would go a long way to help pay for groceries and gas at the pump.”
The Gas Rebate Act was introduced late last month, and according to McIntyre the bill should get serious consideration by House members.
McIntyre has also called on President Obama to release crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to prevent oil prices from spiking and to help American consumers and the economy. According to McIntyre, the reserve holds approximately 696 million barrels and is filled to more than 95 percent of its capacity.
“If oil was released from the SPR, more gas would enter the market and prices would be lowered in the short term for North Carolinians at the pump,” McIntyre said. “Releasing oil from the SPR has a proven record of driving down prices. When President George H.W. Bush deployed oil from the SPR in 1991, oil prices immediately dropped by more than 33 percent. When President Clinton conducted an exchange of oil from the SPR in 2000, it again drove prices down by nearly 19 percent. When President Bush released oil from the reserve in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, oil prices fell by more than 9 percent.”
According to McIntyre, the SPR was created to prevent disruptions in the oil market.
“The current situation calls for the release of barrels from the SPR because Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz which has created shock waves through the energy market and driven up prices for American consumers,” he said.
McIntyre said that other steps Congress can take to lower gas prices for North Carolinians include increasing oil and gas production in the U.S., promoting energy technologies to reduce demand pressure and stopping energy speculators from driving up prices.
“I am working to aggressively expand American energy production in a way that leaves no technology off of the table,” McIntyre said. “We need to capitalize on all of the resources available to us, and we can no longer delay in expanding our American energy supply.”
U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, who represents the 8th District, is currently studying the Gas Rebate Act. Redistricting puts most of Robeson County in the 8th District after the November election.
“He would be willing to support an idea like this, but he would want safeguards to ensure that prices would actually come down at the pump,” a spokesman for Kissell said Wednesday. “Rep. Kissell is opposed to the large subsidies that Big Oil receives, and is committed to protecting taxpayers from having any additional costs or burdens shifted on to them.”
Saying he is not “real familiar” with the bill, John McNeill, chairman of Robeson County’s Democratic Party, said that large oil companies don’t need subsidies.
“Someone needs to stand up for the average American and not just for the richest corporations and individuals,” he said.
Bo Biggs, a longtime observer of local, state and national politics from Lumberton, said that the bill is just an attack on big business.
“The bill just adds another convoluted status to the tax code, wastes precious government resources to administer, as well as having a socialistic flare by giving out money in the form of rebates to people based on the number of cars they own. Don’t we have enough ‘did-my-check-come’ programs that are just a big government grab?”
Biggs suggests that the additional revenues generated from the bill be used to reduce the federal deficit, or eliminate all special tax reduction rules for all industries, thus simplifying the tax code and lowering the effective rates to produce competitive tax policies.
“A shot over the bow at the “Big Oil” companies may be good politics, but it is poor industrial policy,” he said. “Who is next on the list of those that make too much money? Apple? …”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.