Exxon CEO: Bid to repeal oil tax breaks is 'misinformed and discriminatory'

Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson blasted Senate Democrats later Thursday for seeking to eliminate billions of dollars in tax breaks for the largest oil companies, arguing that the effort is “misinformed and discriminatory.”

Tillerson and the heads of the four other major oil companies — Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips and BP — testified before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday morning amid attempts by Democrats to pass a bill that would repeal $21 billion in oil industry tax breaks for the five largest oil companies over 10 years.

 “It is not simply that they are misinformed and discriminatory. They are counterproductive,” Tillerson writes in written testimony filed to the committee. “By undermining U.S. competitiveness, they would discourage future investment in energy projects in the United States and therefore undercut job creation and economic growth. And because they would hinder investment in new energy supplies, they do nothing to help reduce prices.”

Instead of slashing oil tax breaks, Tillerson called on lawmakers to expand domestic oil and natural-gas production.

“There is a more effective way to take steps to reduce prices and raise revenues — but, unfortunately, it is a way Congress and the Administration has so far rejected,” Tillerson said in his written testimony. “If the U.S. oil and gas industry was permitted to develop our nation’s enormous untapped energy supplies, it could put downward pressure on energy prices and increase revenues for government budgets.”

It is unfair to deny five oil companies these tax breaks, Tillerson said, noting that they are “not special incentives, preferences or subsidies for oil and gas, but rather standard deductions applied across all businesses in the United States.”

The effort, Tillerson argued, “is tantamount to job discrimination.”

Senate Democrats, buoyed by high gas prices and soaring industry profits (Exxon posted a $10.65 billion profit in the first quarter of the year), intend to hold a test vote next Wednesday on their bill to eliminate the tax breaks.

The bill faces major hurdles in the Senate and will almost certainly not pass the House. But Democrats don't plan to drop the issue; Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerThrowing some cold water on all of the Korean summit optimism House Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Congress should build on the momentum from spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that Democrats will seek to attach the proposal to a broader measure aimed at reducing the deficit.

Republicans, meanwhile, plan to focus on gas prices. Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate Finance leaders call on Commerce to improve the tariff-exclusion process GOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor House passes series of bills to improve IRS MORE (R-Utah), the top Republican on the Finance panel, said Wednesday he’ll focus on the fact that the plan to slash the tax breaks won't reduce prices at the pump.

But Democrats are almost certain to tout a recent report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that says while gas prices will not go down under the proposal, they will likely not go up either.

—An initial version of this story was published at 7:33 a.m.