• Energy Tax Facts
  • 23 Apr 13

Houston Chronicle: It’s wrong to penalize the oil and gas industry

We don’t like last month’s anemic job creation numbers any more than the Obama administration and the millions of Americans still out of work do. At this rate, full economic recovery is somewhere over an ever-receding horizon. And we really don’t enjoy the idea of a permanent “new normal” of higher unemployment that the numbers suggest may be coming. It’s already tearing at the nation’s civic and social fabric. Something has to give.

We’re glad to be riding out this recovery/recession/economic stall in Houston, where new jobs are still being created at a healthy rate. But it’s frustrating to listen to the same old blame-laying by all concerned in Washington. Republicans blame the tepid job growth numbers on the president for spending too much and not paying sufficient attention to the debt and deficit. Democrats fire back with charges that the Republicans in Congress are sabotaging the recovery by insisting on budget cuts in the name of debt and deficit reduction rather than focusing on government-funded job creation programs.

We think they’re both missing the point – and failing to recognize an opportunity to shovel out of this mess. That solution is as big as, well, Texas. It is cheap, abundant, clean energy. Natural gas from shale.

President Barack Obama is on record as supporting an “all of the above” approach to meeting the nation’s energy needs. But his words do not match his deeds.

For political reasons, the administration postponed a decision on the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline until after last November’s presidential election.

It’s fully five months since Election Day, and still no decision from the White House giving the go-ahead to Keystone, which would bring heavy crude from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast for refining. That would create thousands of jobs and insulate the nation from reliance on oil from unstable regions.

Sometimes it’s hard not to conclude that the administration and a great many uninformed Americans actually view the oil patch as enemy territory and regard the energy industry – oil and natural gas, particularly – as the “enemy” industry. To our knowledge, no other group is so routinely maligned and attacked by politicians and interest groups.

Bad guys? You mean the folks who employ our neighbors in good-paying jobs, contribute mightily to our tax base, civic life and sports and cultural/arts scenes? We don’t think so.

On Wednesday, the president released his long-awaited FY 2014 budget. As expected, it contains a tax that targets the energy industry, the single sector most likely to jump-start a vigorous national economic recovery. If it were not so widely expected, it would be astonishing. Penalizing the producers. Really, sir?

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, said it best: “I can’t stress enough … that singling out the oil and gas industry for tax hikes would only stifle job creation and drive up imports of crude oil from foreign nations that are hostile to us. It’s not fair to penalize one specific industry unjustly, much less one that’s so critical to our nation’s economy.”

Amen, congressman.

We’d like to believe the president means what he says about supporting “all of the above” on energy, but when the administration puts forward a plan like this, it’s hard not to wonder: Is this president really more about the business of choking the energy industry, especially the environmentally friendly natural gas sector?

It was pure coincidence, but on the day the Obama budget was released, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Potential Gas Committee, an industry group, revised its estimates of this country’s natural gas reserves upward by 26 percent since 2010 due chiefly to expansion of the shale resource.

Is anybody in Washington paying attention?