Several weeks ago, President Obama began talking in earnest about the need for the US to stop the cycle of only caring about energy when has prices spike every few years, after which we all return to our peaceful energy slumber. He said there is no short-term solution to high gas prices, and urged the nation to come together to embrace a series of medium- and long-term energy initiatives that would allow the US to reduce all oil and gas imports by a third by 2025.
White House officials acknowledge that the president’s poll numbers have dropped as gas prices have spiked, and while the president is still pushing the notion of a medium- and long-term solution, but yesterday he said “there are some things that we can do right now.”
Specifically, he said he had directed Attorney General Eric Holder to form an “Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group” within the larger, multi-state, multi-agency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.
As the president announced yesterday at a town hall in Reno, Nev., this working group has been instructed “to root out any cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, and that includes the role of traders and speculators. We’re going to make sure that nobody is taking advantage of American consumers for their own short-term gain.”
Next week oil and gas companies are expected to reveal their 1st quarter profits – making this issue all the more relevant to consumers. As Reuters reports, Exxon, the world's largest non-government controlled oil company, is expected to report a 59 percent rise in net income to $9.99 billion while #2 Shell is expected to post a 22 percent rise to $5.89 billion . Chevron is expected to report a 29 percent rise to $5.92 billion.
The president and Obama administration officials will be fanning out around the country over the next 6 weeks to discuss the president’s longer term energy plan, part of which is the president’s proposal that the $4 billion in subsidies for the oil and gas industry be spend on clean and renewable energy instead.
At the Facebook town hall earlier this week, President Obama said “the Treasury loses $4 billion a year on subsidies to oil companies. Now, think about this. The top five oil companies have made somewhere between $75 billion and $125 billion every year for the last five years. Nobody is doing better than Exxon. Nobody is doing better than Shell or these other companies. They are doing great. … They don’t need special tax breaks that cost us $4 billion. So what we’ve said is, why can’t we eliminate the tax breaks for the oil companies who are doing great, and invest that in new energy sources that can help us save the planet?”