President Obama has made tax breaks for the oil industry an ongoing target. He recently reaffirmed his stance in his State of the Union address, saying that our nation has supported these companies for long enough. And as budget season begins next week, we’ll likely see the idea come up again in deliberations over where to cut.
But exactly how much companies like Shell and ExxonMobil receive is something of a mystery. Tucked into tomes of tax code, subsidies for fossil-fuel industries are often obscured. The IRS does not make public the amounts that companies save, and estimates range widely. One analysis found that about $72 billion went to oil, gas, and coal producers from 2002 to 2008. But we really don’t have a clear or complete picture of the actual total; it could easily be much higher.