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With the Gulf spill as backdrop, new Senate legislation sets out to keep billions of dollars in subsidies from flowing to the oil industry. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) says his new bill would close oil-friendly corporate tax loopholes that add up to $20 billion in ten years. That’s almost as ambitious as what President Barack Obama laid out in his proposed budget for 2011, but is just a fraction (perhaps a tenth) of what taxpayers could save if the government stopped all subsidies, says Doug Koplow of Earth Track, a research group that tracks energy subsidies.

"If those numbers are correct," Koplow said, "that means they’re already doing the political calculations to get supporters of the oil industry on board." And no doubt political calculations will be necessary to pass an anti-oil bill in this Congress. Sen. Menendez knows– his other bill to raise the $65 million liability cap for oil companies has been blocked from twice so far by Senate Republicans, most recently by Senator Inhofe (R-OK), who said he’s concerned about the consequences for small, independent oil companies. Menendez made this appeal to his fellow Senators in a press release: "The flow of revenues to oil companies is like the gusher at the bottom of the Gullf of Mexico: heavy and constant…Unlike the geyser in the Gulf we can shut down these loopholes quickly and permanently when we pass this legislation."