Thursday, August 26, 2010

Citizens Against Taxing Big Oil

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. – (attributed to) Abraham Lincoln

One evening I was watching the news minding my own business when I was astonished by what I saw. It was an ad paid for and produced by the American Petroleum Institute or API. API is the main trade association for the oil and natural gas industry. According to the commercial which depicted what appeared to be ordinary Americans upset because the Congress is considering raising the taxes on the industry by 80 billion dollars in the 2011 budget. According to these ordinary Americans raising taxes during a recession on anyone is bad policy. This rationale sounds eerily familiar to the rhetoric being used to justify keeping the Bush tax cuts. It is this type of blatant propaganda that must be exposed for what it is.

What is amazing to me is that we have all read how energy company profits have been at all-time highs for the last decade. Each quarter they set new record highs not just for energy companies but for all corporations. So with all of these record profits you would think that these concerned energy titans would be using that money to research and develop new cleaner energy technologies right? Wrong. Many of these companies are using less than 1% of their income to research new clean energy technologies. Most of them are using these enormous profits to buy back their stock and thus insuring even larger profits in the future. So at the end of this decade of record profits we are to assume that taxing these companies is going to wreck the economy and kill 400,000 jobs?

We as Americans through the work of our political leaders have been subsidizing an industry that continues to make money hand over fist. We do this not only in paying higher energy bills but also through subsidies to this industry.

All of this political gamesmanship aside, consumers have good reason to be angry. Not only are the oil companies racking up extraordinary profits, they’re doing it while continuing to enjoy generous tax breaks and economic subsidies paid for by the same people who are also paying exceptionally high prices at the pump. Essentially, consumers end up paying oil companies twice for the same product, first subsidizing their production and then buying the finished product at inflated prices.Larry West

So let me get this straight, the people who are being gouged are upset because the people who are gouging them are going to have pay taxes on these record profits and lose some of the subsidies they don’t need in the first place. How stupid do they take us for? I thought the ad about an energy company being in the people business was bad, but this one sets a new low. The thing that troubles me the most about this ad is that the people being interviewed obviously have no clue who the tax would impact. One woman states that some people are barely hanging on so raising taxes would be a burden. I agree if the tax was for ordinary working people but this tax is on an industry where the top 5 companies made over 550 billion dollars under the Bush administration and has not slowed down since. Are we to assume that the oil industry is just barely hanging on? If it weren’t so dishonest it would be almost comical.

We as a nation I believe will not get serious about clean energy until we make it too painful to continue down the path we are on. Unfortunately humans respond best to two stimuli; pain and fear. Most of the countries that are pioneering clean energy and sustainability are doing so because they had to. Until gas prices reach about $5 a gallon we will continue our urban sprawl with bigger and more congested highways, we will continue to refuse to develop and implement clean energy sources for providing energy to our homes and businesses, and we will ignore rail and other transportation alternatives. The truth is that gas prices will reach $5 the question then becomes do we allow the profits to go to an industry that has repeatedly shown it has no desire to provide clean sustainable energy or do we create a self-imposed tax that will be used to fund the switch to clean energy? How can we expect an industry with little or no incentive to develop the clean energy technologies we need?

Following the oil embargo of 1973 the nation of Iceland embarked on a radical and massive shift in its energy policy. Because the cost of fuel had skyrocketed they made the calculated determination that they would begin to seek alternative fuel sources and conservation. The people of Iceland created a self-imposed tax on oil to fund their transformation to renewable energy and today are reaping the benefits. So while we went left (change suppliers), they went right (reducing dependency and alternative sources). So while they now enjoy the freedom of renewable energy we are still being held hostage by foreign governments (many of whom are hostile to us) through our big oil companies. History has shown us that we will not develop sustainable energy policy until the last drop of oil is gone. The problem with that strategy is by that time it will be too late.

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun. - Ralph Nader

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