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We can’t afford to extend unemployment benefits, but:

“…an examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process.”

Take, for instance, two of the major players in the Gulf oil spill—Transocean and BP:

“When the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform set off the worst oil spill at sea in American history, it was flying the flag of the Marshall Islands. Registering there allowed the rig’s owner to significantly reduce its American taxes.

The owner, Transocean, moved its corporate headquarters from Houston to the Cayman Islands in 1999 and then to Switzerland in 2008, maneuvers that also helped it avoid taxes.

At the same time, BP was reaping sizable tax benefits from leasing the rig. According to a letter sent in June to the Senate Finance Committee, the company used a tax break for the oil industry to write off 70 percent of the rent for Deepwater Horizon — a deduction of more than $225,000 a day since the lease began.”

Congress and the Obama administration are working (allegedly) on legislation that would cut $20 billion in oil industry tax breaks. The response from the oil companies? One wrong move and the economy gets it:

“Jack N. Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, warns that any cut in subsidies will cost jobs. “These companies evaluate costs, risks and opportunities across the globe,” he said. “So if the U.S. makes changes in the tax code that discourage drilling in gulf waters, they will go elsewhere and take their jobs with them.”

What are the chances of Congress eliminating these subsidies? Slim and none:

“Efforts to curtail the tax breaks are likely to face fierce opposition in Congress; the oil and natural gas industry has spent $340 million on lobbyists since 2008, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors political spending.”

An example is Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) who is co-sponsoring the legislation that would end the tax breaks, but:

“While the legislation would cut many incentives over the next decade, it would not touch the tax breaks for oil refineries, many of which have operations and employees in his home state, New Jersey.”