The Fossil 47 Percent: Freeloading Energy Companies That Pay No Income Taxes

Mitt Romney has nothing but disdain for fossil fuel companies. At least those freeloaders that are “dependent on government” and “pay no income taxes.” This is true if you believe Romney's very own words and some very circular logic. Follow along:

According to Romney, his “job is is not to worry about” those 47 percent of Americans that don’t pay income taxes.

And of course we know that, according to Romney, “corporations are people,” too. So reason dictates that if a corporation isn’t paying income taxes, it’s not Mitt Romney’s job to worry about them.

Someone tell that to the 33 energy companies in the S&P 500 that paid either paid no income taxes at all or actually received a tax return last year.

Are these the corporation-people that Romney scorns? The freeloaders he claims “are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.”

Of the 70 big energy companies that make the ranks of the S&P 500 (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, utilities, resource extraction and infrastructure companies, and so on), 33 paid absolutely nothing (or less!) in taxes in 2011.

This is all according to a DeSmogBlog analysis of energy companies’ 2011 tax data using the Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Tool built by NerdWallet.

As Joanna Pratt, a Vice President at NerdWallet, describes it, the “Actual Tax Rate” calculated by the transparency tool reflects the actual tax payments for the current year as a percentage of the company’s income.

According to Pratt, some companies will defer or reduce taxes that are due any given year through a number of tactics, so they don’t wind up paying the official corporate tax rate, or even the rate that they report. Which is how, for instance, ExxonMobil (which – sorry, who – barely avoided the shunned ranks of the freeloading 47 percent) paid an actual tax rate of 2 percent on their roughly $73 billion of income, while reporting a tax rate of 42 percent.

So who are the real Big Energy freeloaders? The 47 percent of S&P 500 listed energy industry companies didn’t pay income taxes at all last year?

Here they are in alphabetical order, listed with the branch of the energy sector they work in, and including screengrabs from the Corporate Tax Rate Transparency Tool that shows the actual tax rate, the reported tax rate, and the company’s total income.

AES Corp
Electricity generation and distribution.

AGL Resources
Natural gas


Alpha Natural Resources
Coal. Posted negative earnings due largely to purchase of Massey Energy during the fallout from the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.


Ameren Corp
Natural gas and electric utility.


Anadarko Petroleum
Oil and gas speculation.

Centerpoint Energy
Natural gas and electricity utility. 

Chesapeake Energy
Natural gas.

Denbury Resources
Oil and gas producer.

Devon Energy Corp.
Oil and gas producer.

Dominion Resources
Natural gas and electric utility.


Duke Energy
Electric utility (nuclear, coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric power) and natural gas distributor.


Edison International
Electric utility.


Nuclear power.


Exelon Energy
Natural gas and nuclear-powered electric utility and natural gas distributor.

FirstEnergy Corp
Electric utility.

Integrys Energy
Natural gas and electric utilities.


Marathon Oil Company
Tar sands, oil production and refining.


Next Era Energy
Electricity generation. Mostly wind, some nuclear.


Nisource Energy
Natural gas distribution and electricity generation.

Natural gas distribution.


Natural gas and electric utility.


Pioneer Natural Resources
Oil and natural gas exploration.


Progress Energy
Former natural gas distributor and electric utility, since acquired by Duke Energy.

QEP Resources
Oil and natural gas exploration.


Range Resources
Natural gas exploration.


Rowan Companies
Offshore oil drilling rigs.

Southwestern Energy
Oil and natural gas exploration.

Spectra Energy
Vertically integrated natural gas company.

Gasoline and transporation fuels.


TECO Energy
Coal producer, natural gas distributor, electric utility.


WPX Energy
Shale oil and natural gas exploration.


Wisconsin Energy
Natural gas distribution and electric utility.


XCEL Energy
Electric utility- coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar. 

Of those irresponsible 47 percent, Romney said, “I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Would he try to convince these non-tax-paying energy companies the same way? 


Nice job connecting the dots, Ben.

I suppose right wing ownership of the majority of the mass media means that the general public will never get to hear about this, unlike the situation regarding subsidies to the renewable energy sector.

What is the difference between what companies actually pay and what they report they pay? And how do we know this if all we have to go by is what they report they pay?