Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Energy Tax Ads Prey on the "Economically" Challenged

Have you seen these ads:


Do you think the people in the American Petroleum Institute's (API) ads about the Obama administration's repeal of tax subsidies for oil and natural gas companies have any idea what the issue is really about?  You've probably seen these ads and may have even agreed with the sentiments of the "average American taxpayer" being interviewed.

I suggest reading this article from the Houston Chronicle, "Key Energy Players Pump Up the Volume."

I understand that the API is a lobby group for Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Marathon Oil, Shell, Sunoco, as well as others, and that they are going to spin the argument in favor of their clients, but the amount of spin in this case is outrageous.

First, to say that the Administration's proposals will increase taxes is misleading.  Congress passed the Energy Policy Act in 2005.  The act created corporate tax deductions for the oil and natural gas industries for things like drilling expenses, paying foreign taxes, cost of inputs to recover more oil and gas out of wells, lost value of property after oil and gas reserves are removed, among others.  These tax deductions are otherwise known as subsidies that lower the costs of production.  The Obama proposal plans to eliminate these tax deductions, essentially returning their corporate profit taxes back to their pre-2005 rates.  Now if you are Exxon Mobile, a company that has reported the largest quarterly net income on the planet, the elimination of corporate profit tax deductions may seem like a tax increase especially when compared to last year, or 2008.   But the Administration is really talking about removing tax deductions, deductions that were difficulty to justify in the first place, and requiring them to pay taxes like they did prior to this act.

Second, the API claims that "raising taxes" on the oil and gas industry will cost America jobs.  It may relative to last year, but not on net.  The statement has no context unless you talk about the potential jobs lost in years 2005-2010 that resulted from other spending cuts or other tax increases necessary to offset their tax deduction.  Actually, it is more likely that the government just borrowed the money they gave to the oil and gas industry from 2005-2010.  Does it make you feel any better that we pushed the cost of their tax deductions into the future, with interest? Also, you cannot just talk about jobs lost in oil and gas without talking about job increases in nuclear power which has been earmarked for the taxes collected from oil and natural gas industry.  And what about alternative energy markets?  These markets have been at a competitive disadvantage relative to oil and gas energy as a result of the tax subsidies.  Any microeconomics student knows that when the price goes up for one good, the demand for its substitute increases.  Increased demand for alternative energy means jobs and business opportunities.

Lastly, the subsidies to oil and gas keep prices lower and some think that's great for consumers.  But this comes at the expense of the environment and our national security.  I thought most of us were on board with the idea that we wanted to get off our reliance on oil?  The tax subsidies keep prices artificially low, adding to our reliance and hurting the opportunities for products and businesses who use alternatives. Also keep in mind that the artificially lower oil and gas prices come at the expense on other tax increases, reduced government spending, or more national debt, all of which translates into a higher price we all share.  Lastly, keep in mind that those lower oil and gas prices are really helpful to the big industrial users of energy, more than residential users, and that we pay a higher price because the tax subsidies are paid with our tax dollars as individuals, not corporations, provide the bulk of government revenue.

I wonder if the people in the ads would reconsider if they just thought about the economics.

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