Press Release

May 11, 2011
Big 5 Oil Companies Reap $1 Trillion in Profits in Last Decade


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, signed a letter today urging the Big 5 oil company executives to reject any more taxpayer subsidies in light of the fact that they have made nearly $1 trillion in profits over last decade.  Senator Cardin has co-sponsored legislation that would end $4 billion a year in subsidies and tax breaks to the five biggest oil companies: Exxon Mobil Corp, Conoco Phillips, Chevron Corp., Shell, and BP America. 

The letter, which was also signed by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Bill Nelson (D-FL), was sent to the heads of Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco Phillips, Chevron Corp., Shell, and BP America.  The executives from these oil companies will be testifying tomorrow before the Senate Finance Committee and will be questioned closely about high gas prices, which are seriously hurting American families, businesses and jeopardizing our economic recovery.

“At a time of soaring gas prices and record deficits, the five most profitable oil companies do not need, or deserve, a handout from the American taxpayer,” said Senator Cardin.

The text of the letter is below:


May 10, 2011

Dear Sirs:

As members of the Senate Committee on Finance, we eagerly await your testimony at our panel’s hearing tomorrow. We urge you to take this opportunity to publicly admit that, given your companies’ prodigious profits, you no longer need taxpayer subsidies. We hope you will do the right thing for our country’s fiscal health and endorse their discontinuation.

We are sure you will agree that our nation’s mounting debt is a serious threat to our recovering economy.  But if we are truly serious about cutting our deficit, it is imperative that we start by getting rid of wasteful and ineffective corporate subsidies that have outlived their usefulness.  That is why we introduced legislation yesterday—the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act (S. 940)—that would end $21 billion in projected taxpayer subsidies for the five largest integrated oil companies.  The former President of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, had the courage to say, in no uncertain terms, that your companies no longer need these giveaways. We urge you, in your testimony tomorrow before the Senate Finance Committee, to acknowledge the same.

We agree with the vast majority of Americans that taxpayer subsidization of your companies is no longer necessary.  When many of these tax breaks were passed into law, oil was less than $20 a barrel. Today, the price of oil is hovering around $100 a barrel.  Because of the exponential increase in the price of oil, the companies you successfully manage have reported a combined total of $36 billion in corporate profits in the first quarter of 2011 alone. That amounts to a staggering $2.8 billion per week of profit.

Every single one of us has heard from constituents back home who are struggling with the rising price of gasoline. While families across the country are being squeezed, your industry is doing better than ever.  And yet the U.S. government continues to dole out $4 billion a year in tax breaks to your companies. These subsidies are not sustainable, and we intend to end them.

We are hopeful that you will agree that S. 940 makes economic sense in our shared goal of putting our country back on the right fiscal track.