Tax breaks for Big Oil continue to be a hot-button issue in Congress. To some it's a way to generate more revenue for the federal government and a matter of equity given Big Oil is generating record profits.
The huge profits are particularly irritating for U.S. consumers as the price of gasoline remains at nearly $4 a gallon, which has taken a toll on the buying power of most Americans and has been a huge factor in the nation's slow recover from the Great Recession.
That irritation should now turn to full-blown anger in the wake of reports that U.S. exports of refined fuel has surged to an all-time high helping to keep the price of gasoline up.
According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. refiners exported a record average of 895,000 barrels a day of refined fuels, compared with 730,000 barrels a day during the first half of the year. The data collected was from August, which is when the latest data from Energy Department was collected.
During 2010, exports averaged a record 656,000 barrels a day, the seventh straight year in which refiners set a new high for fuel exports, the Times reported. Just eight years ago U.S. refiners exported a little more than 100,000 barrels of fuel a day, according to the Department of Energy.
"Increases in U.S. distillate exports began as global diesel consumption growth outpaced growth in consumption of other petroleum products over the past decade," the agency said in a recent report.
We certainly understand that oil companies do business around the globe and are in business to make a profit. We also understand the price of gasoline is subject to the economic law of supply and demand.
However, gasoline is not like every other commodity. It's more like electricity and natural gas. These are all goods that have become essential to our lives, which is why their price is regulated by the government. Perhaps oil companies, like those selling electricity, should have to seek permission from a government commission to raise prices.
The commission would take into consideration market conditions such as the cost of oil, but could also make sure the consumer isn't being gouged.
Big Oil seems to be inviting this type of U.S. government oversight by continuing to accept and seek tax breaks while shipping a record-amount of fuel out of the country.