As gas prices continue to rise in this challenging economy, it is clearer than ever that we need a new "do-it-all" energy policy that expands America's energy portfolio. We need to increase domestic production in a responsible way, keep American oil here, not ship it overseas and develop new sustainable technologies that will power our economy for years to come. And we need to finally hold the oil industry accountable for the wild price swings.
We can start by ending the wasteful government subsidies for the five biggest oil companies -- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell. Combined, these companies made $137 billion in profits in 2011, a 75 percent increase from 2010 alone. When every penny increase at the pump puts an additional $200 million right in their pockets, big oil companies don't need any more handouts from American taxpayers. But politicians in Washington, who gladly take their money for campaigns, continue to protect them from any efforts that would end this scam.
The free ride for big oil has to stop. I propose we start immediately by repealing the $4 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies the oil companies now reap and reinvesting those funds in ways that make the United States less dependent on foreign oil and protect us from the current manufactured spikes we see year in and out.
Second, we need a "Keep it in America" law. Any oil drilled in the United States on publicly leased lands should be required to stay in America to help ease the price at the pump. Currently, too much of this oil is being sent to countries like China and India.
Third, currently oil companies have permits to drill on thousands of acres of leased land in the United States that they are just sitting on. If they won't drill in preapproved federal lands, we should withdraw their permits.
Last, we need to continue to demand more fuel-efficient cars and trucks to better serve consumers and decrease our reliance on oil. The same goes for new sustainable energy research and development and manufacturing. Critics say that clean energy technology is science fiction and just the latest trend in going green. But that just gives countries like China and India that are capitalizing on this technology more time to take the lead.
New York is up to the challenge. I've traveled all across New York State, and I've seen our amazing potential in this industry firsthand. We are home to the proudest manufacturing tradition, world-class universities and research institutions, the hardest workers and the brightest minds -- every resource we need to fuel our economy with new energy, new businesses and new jobs, and lead us to energy independence.
Now is the time to make this our future. No more gas price gimmicks. Cut the big oil tax subsidies, cut our dependence on foreign oil, and harness the potential in New York to produce clean energy that's made in America.
Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is a U.S.senator.