| September 4, 2012

Energy Companies Fuel More than Our Cars

With just a couple of months to go before the November elections, political strategists are busy scattering rhetoric among the masses in hopes we will just gobble it up, blindly accept it, and vote accordingly. This rhetoric would have us believe that the upcoming election is about a few very wealthy people trying to unduly influence the process because they dislike President Obama.

If you believe that, you will be much more likely to resist those “fat cats” and stand by your man. Even if you do not believe that, the mere suggestion of it can occupy enough headlines and news channel discussions to keep your eye off the ball. What ball? That 95-miles-per-hour fastball of increasing debt and decreasing national security. Either way, rhetoric typically distracts us from the real truth, and that is why it can be incredibly powerful and incredibly destructive.

If we believe the election is about us versus them, we might be inclined to think a certain way in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary. The political messaging professionals know that, and they are counting on it. Likewise, a similar strategy is being employed in America’s energy sector. Environmental groups, overzealous bureaucrats, and other opponents of the traditional energy industry in this country are hoping you will believe that some nameless, faceless, massive company that cares only about profits and nothing about communities or environments is out to take advantage of you for a buck. It’s “big oil” versus the environment, big oil versus you, big oil versus America. Whose side are you on?

Activists in government agencies and anti-fossil-fuel organizations accuse U.S. oil and natural gas companies of failing to pay their “fair share” of taxes, but the American Petroleum Institute (API)’s “State of American Energy 2012” calculated that their effective income tax rate in 2010 was 41.1 percent—compared to 26.5 percent for other S&P industrial companies. API also found the industry pays a combined $87 million dollars per day in federal taxes for a total of approximately $31 billion per year.

American energy companies are paying more than their fair share, and overtaxing or overregulating those companies will only increase the cost of production, the cost of gasoline, and the cost of electricity. In fact, the plans to increase taxes would not even impact larger companies but would instead cripple the smaller independent companies responsible for the vast majority of production in this country. The companies who would be hurt the most by those policies are the ones employing blue-collar workers that are the backbone of this nation. We cannot afford to lose jobs and force Americans to pay more for the things they need. The economy is already in a difficult position, and the last thing we should do is slow the growth in the energy sector and increase costs to our citizens and business.

Our energy companies are also doing their part to maintain the environment and properly steward our natural resources. In Oklahoma alone, companies regularly share best practices to prevent disrupting the environment, and Oklahoma Energy Resources Board members are also restoring areas where attention is needed by contributing more than $70 million to clean up more than 12,000 orphaned or abandoned wells in this state.

Industry experts see big things on the horizon for America’s oil and natural gas companies. For the first time in decades, the path to true energy independence is beginning to take shape. But getting there will require us to separate truth from rhetoric.

Brian Bush (J.D., University of Oklahoma) is OCPA’s executive vice president.

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