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By Candice Bernd
February 14, 2012
Caption : Some members of Congress are pushing to keep the pipeline alive as the largest oil-and-gas companies returned huge profits with fewer products in 2011.     

In just 24 hours, environmental groups around the nation and their progressive allies hope to send at least half a million messages to the Senate backing President Obama’s decision to deny the Keystone XL pipeline permit.

A number of Senate Republicans are looking to add an amendment to a transportation package which would force the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We were really heartened by the news … about the rejection of the permit and we’re really glad that that was a move the president made,” said 350.org’s May Boeve. “But [Congress was] very clear that they want to keep putting [the] Keystone pipeline back on the political chopping block every chance they get.”

In January, members of many of the same environmental groups involved in today’s e-mail blitz—including 350.org, the Energy Action Coalition, Greenpeace, the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club— put on their referee shirts (literally) to “blow the whistle” on Big Oil corruption.

They marched from the Capitol to the American Petroleum Institute headquarters in Washington, DC, to call attention to the unprecedented subsidies and tax breaks the oil-and-gas industry has enjoyed over the past decade.

“The API has been a really effective front group for the oil industry and enabling this very easy flow of money from a select number of oil companies into Congress,” Boeve said.

If it’s not already painfully obvious why the federal government needs to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline and end tax breaks and subsidies for the largest oil-and-gas companies, the profit margins of those companies might just provide Congress the proper amount of arm-twisting clarity to do the job.

Major fuel companies BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell all made upward of 75 percent more in profits—$137 billion combined—in 2011 than in 2010 while producing 4 percent less oil than and with more than $2 billion in government subsidies.

Simultaneously, to invert this logic even more, Americans saw the highest gas prices at the pump this year since 1984.

So far, these companies have doled out more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions and $65.7 million on lobbying, returning more than $30 worth of tax breaks for every dollar they invested—a 3,000 percent return on their lobbying efforts, and they’re still sitting on tens of millions in cash reserves.

Let’s add more insult to that injury.

All of the this has not led to higher employment–rather, the five big oil giants have actually reduced the work force by 11,200 employees between 2005 and 2010, according to a report distributed by members of the Natural Resources Committee called “Profits and Pink Slips: How Big Oil and Gas Companies are Not Creating U.S. Jobs or Paying Their Fair Share” [PDF].

Another thing that wouldn’t create jobs? TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

The corporation would likely follow the same pattern of creating few permanent jobs while reaping huge profits by exporting their dirty tar sands product elsewhere.

Less than 10 percent of the profits earned by these five companies are reinvested in additional oil exploration. Instead, the companies are buying shares of their own stock to invest in a political process that has kept an amazingly cozy status quo for them.

That status quo had Exxon Mobile paying a 17.6 percent tax rate from 2008 to 2010, or 3 percent less than the tax rate an average American family paid.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) has pledged to introduce legislation that would end the billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies.

“The most profitable corporations in the world do not need subsidies from the American people,” Sanders said in front of the Capitol during the January rally.

These agonizing statistics leave the situation clearer than ever.

Hopefully, it’sobvious enough to make Congress act to end the arcane tax breaks and subsidies for one of the richest industries on the planet. And while they’re at it, it’s time to put a stop to the zombie Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.

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