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Keystone Foes Urge Obama to Repeal Tax Breaks for Oil

Bill McKibben, leader of a group that pushed President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, urged the administration to seek repeal of tax breaks for U.S. oil companies in the State of the Union speech.

“We want Obama today to come out against these subsidies for fossil fuels,” McKibben said in an interview in Washington. “They get billions of dollars in subsidies, taxpayer money, every single year.”

McKibben and environmentalists from and Greenpeace protested outside the U.S. Capitol over what he said is the fossil-fuel “corruption” in Congress. Oil companies get $320 in U.S. subsidies for every $1 they give in political contributions, McKibben said.

Obama denied a permit for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline on Jan. 18 after environmental groups demonstrated for weeks outside the White House, opposing the project because they said it would add to U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and endanger drinking-water supplies in Nebraska.

The president is scheduled to deliver his annual speech to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. Washington time. Repealing oil and gas industry tax breaks was mentioned in Obama’s 2010 and 2011 speeches.

“I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies” to help develop innovations in energy,’’ Obama said a year ago.

Democrats in Congress failed to get enough support last year to repeal $21 billion in tax breaks over 10 years for Exxon Mobil Corp. of Irving, Texas, London’s BP Plc, Houston’s ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California, and The Hague’s Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

“Our deductions are standard business deductions that help recover costs,” Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, said in an e-mail today. “The oil and natural gas companies still pay more in taxes than virtually every other industry.”

The American Petroleum Institute is the largest energy trade organization, based in Washington.

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