Oil Lobby Pumps Up To Impress Super Committee

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If your U.S. senator or representative is on the super committee, expect your local airwaves to be peppered with oil industry ads in coming weeks. The basic message: Higher taxes on oil companies don't make financial sense.

The super committee in Congress is racing to find places to cut more than a trillion dollars out of the nation's deficit by Thanksgiving. The oil industry fears that ending its tax breaks may be one way the super committee will decide to raise revenue. That's spurred Big Oil's lobbying machine to work overtime.

"We are a very successful industry and one of the few industries that is creating jobs in this economy," says Marty Durbin, executive vice president with the American Petroleum Institute. Durbin is the institute's chief lobbyist and he argues the tax breaks in question are the same benefits other businesses enjoy.

"They're simple deductions and cost recovery mechanisms. Sometimes they do have different names, because do they apply to our industry — they're in our part of the tax code as opposed to others — but these are not special deals in any way," he says.

No question though, they are worth billions each year to an industry currently earning tens of billions in profits.

Over at the Sierra Club, lobbyist Melinda Pierce is worried the super committee will trim budgets for agencies charged with protecting the environment.

"If you're looking for money to cut, don't do it from the programs that are chump change — let's go after some of these mature industries and make them pay their fair share," she says.

Pierce suspects the super committee may cut some incentives for renewable energy projects. She says that would be a little easier to accept if Big Oil's tax breaks go away, too.

"Maybe that will help level the playing field and move us away from oil and towards a clean energy future," says.

Of course, that assumes the Republicans and Democrats on the super committee are able to reach agreement before Thanksgiving. So far, that's an open question.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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