Massive oil profits and $33 billion in taxpayer handouts

On news of the massive profits reported by ExxonMobil today, ABC News crunched the numbers and has found that the combined profits of the top 5 US oil companies was $1.5 trillion last year.

The news report points out that this staggering amount of profit is more that the total GDP of Canada, at $1.43 trillion last year.

As many have rightly pointed out that while these profits margins are staggering, they are not out of line relative to other companies like Microsoft. However, where these profits do become obscene is when you consider how much US oil companies receive in taxpayer subsidies.

A report released today by the Friends of the Earth (pdf) finds that US oil companies will get a whopping $32.9 billion in tax breaks, subsidies and other handouts over the next 5 years. That's $32.9 billion of taxpayers money going into the pockets of oil companies.

Here's the breakdown of how your tax dollars will be spent on subsidizing Big Oil over the next 5 years:

Tax breaks = $23.2 billion

Royalty relief = $3.8 billion

Research and development subsidies = $1.6 billion

Accounting gimmicks = $4.3 billion

With record-breaking gas prices fueling these profits and the world's scientists with the leading academies of the world agreeing that we need to stop burning so much oil, coal and other fossil fuels, it seems to me that a good first step might be to take these massive subsidies and start investing in sustainable long-term energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal technology.

Makes sense to me, but then again I'm not a politician.