What happened to the windfall tax?

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: It's been a big week for big oil. Oil companies have been turning in their profits from last quarter. Exxon: $ 10 billion. Shell and BP: $7 billion. Conoco Phillips: $5 billion. We'll get the numbers from Chevron. Kinda makes you wonder what happened to all the talk about a windfall tax? Here's Marketplace's Amy Scott.


AMY SCOTT: Remember last fall when Congress hauled oil executives up to the Hill and grilled them about their record earnings? After a lot of bluster, the idea of a tax on windfall profits kind of faded away. One plan came close a few months ago. It would have raised oil company taxes by changing an arcane accounting rule.
TYSON SLOCUM: "It made it into conference committee. And Senator Bill Frist removed it at the last minute, under pressure from the White House and the oil industry."

That's Tyson Slocum. He directs Public Citizen's energy program and supports a windfall tax. He says given this week's eye-popping earnings, the political winds may turn favorable again.

SLOCUM:"You're looking at a big election this November and I think that there are a number of lawmakers who are vulnerable on this issue."

The oil industry says higher taxes would discourage domestic production and drive up prices.

And the windfall may be short-lived. Some analysts warn that inflation, hostile governments, and inadequate reserves will soon start to erode oil company profits.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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