Stabenow calls for end to oil subsidies as gas prices rise
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow picked a Marathon gas station in Southfield Friday to highlight the difficulties of rising gasoline prices and to press her case for removing taxpayer subsidies for oil companies making record profits.
Appearing in front a gas pump showing $4.29 for a gallon of regular unleaded, Stabenow called for an end to $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies for oil companies and "use it or lose it" legislation to encourage domestic oil drilling.
“Michigan families are now spending as much on gas as they are on health care and almost as much as on groceries to feed their families," said Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat running for a third six-year term in the U.S. Senate in 2012.
"Meanwhile, oil companies are making the largest corporate profits in history and to add insult to injury, are taking billions in taxpayer subsidies," Stabenow said.
"We need to stop oil companies from padding their profits with taxpayer dollars, increase domestic drilling, get tough on market manipulators, and continue to promote clean energy that reduces our dependence on foreign oil and creates jobs in Michigan,” she said.
The U.S. Senate could vote on an end to oil company subsidies and tax breaks as early as next week.
In calling for an end to the subsidies, Stabenow is echoing the position of the White House. President Barack Obama has also called for an end to subsidies for large oil companies.
"It's really outrageous what's happening, particularly when we as taxpayers give huge subsidies to oil and gas companies as they are having the highest corporate profits ever in the history of our country," Stabenow said. "We are paying twice.
"We are paying outrageously high prices at the pump and then to add insult to injury, we are paying again as taxpayers, providing huge subsidies while we have a deficit in this country," she said.
"We can't afford these subsidies anymore and the companies don't need them when they have the highest profits in the history of the world for them.
"Next week we will be voting on legislation that will eliminate the huge taxpayer subsidies for the top five oil companies in our country that are operating around the world," Stabenow said. "And that money will go instead toward paying down our national deficit.
Stabenow said there also needs to be a crackdown on speculators who drive up the prices of commodities such as oil.
And she said she' supports a legislative movement to require oil companies to either drill on land where they own oil leases or give up the leases to oil companies that will drill.
"There are six million acres of land where the oil companies have leases, they are choosing not to drill," Stabenow said. "They get the lease so they can keep a competitor from drilling but they themselves do not drill for American oil.
"So I'm part of a legislative effort called 'use it or lose it."
Jim Hamade, owner of the Marathon station Stabenow picked for her new event, appeared with the senator.
"I think it's a crime that oil companies are getting subsidies from us while we're suffering," Hamade said.
"I see it, I see the pain with the customers that come in," he said of rising gas prices.
Sharon McRill, owner of the Betty Brigade, said she has 14 people around the state working for her and the higher prices are "really taking a big chunk out of what we do.
"We're really happy that Michigan's economy is starting to show some progress, that we're starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, but it's a challenge when you start seeing higher gas prices," McRill said.
Retiree Ilene Orlanski of Royal Oak also spoke in support of Stabenow.
"The rising cost of gas has really impacted my pocketbook because I'm on a fixed income," she said. "The cost of all items has gone up because of the trucking and transportation needed to get goods to us."
It's unclear how Stabenow's proposals will fare. While Democrats hold a slight majority in the U.S. Senate, Republicans control the House.
On Friday, auto insurer AAA's website, www.fuelgaugereport.com, listed the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Michigan at $4.239 a gallon.
Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @crummc and on Facebook.