The Gas Price Rebate

Bill Scher

Economic data have you down? The net loss of 17,000 jobs in January. Wages continuing to fail to keep up with higher prices. Just the latest evidence of an economy that doesn’t work for everybody.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not working for somebody! From the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights yesterday:

The record run of 2007 oil profits, which came as the U.S. economy slid into recession and consumer debt soared, portrays an industry run amok … Shell, world’s second-largest oil company, racked up a corporate record $27.6 billion annual profit in 2007…

…it’s profit figures show that integrated oil companies continue to find ways to increase profits even as the economy falls. In Shell’s case, the company replaced the refining profits of recent years by escalating income from selling crude oil, often to their own refiners, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan FTCR. Consumers and economies continue to suffer the result.

Shell’s yearly profit will be exceeded tomorrow by ExxonMobil, whose profits are thought likely by analysts to top last year’s $39 billion total. [ed. note — Yup, $40.6 billion]

“With motorists paying $63 for a 20-gallon fill-up in California and Northeasterners shelling out more than $2,000 on average this season for heating oil, it’s no stretch to expect a family’s whole federal “economic stimulus” payment this spring to go to energy-related debt on their credit cards,” said Judy Dugan, research director of FTCR and its OilWatchdog.org project. “The cost of the current stimulus package, estimated at about $117 billion in extra national debt, is little more than the yearly combined profit of the major oil companies.”

While the housing collapse may have triggered recession, energy prices have deepened and will likely lengthen it, said FTCR.

So thanks to the utter lack of a clean energy policy, the stimulus package may amount to little more than a gas price rebate.

Now, the Senate Finance Committee’s stimulus package tries to give the economy an extra boost by extending tax credits for renewable energy that have expired or are scheduled to expire this year.

It’s not the long-term tax credit that the renewable energy industry really needs to establish the market certainty necessary to attract investment. Arguably, that’s they least Congress can do, but even that faces another conservative filibuster or presidential veto.

Beyond mitigating recession, to strengthen the foundations of our economy we must invest in renewable energy to create sustainable green-collar jobs.

We’ve learned all to well, during the Bush Era of conservative failure, that huge corporate profits for the fossil fuel CEOs are no sign of economic security for working families.

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