It's time to address our energy needs

Friday, March 31, 2006

By Reid Forrester

With American oil companies reporting record profits, proposals such as the windfall profit tax are once again gaining momentum. Even for staunch opponents of the idea, the temptation to score cheap political points by attacking the companies may be too great to ignore.

As gasoline prices have fallen from their post-Hurricane Katrina highs, pressure to enact the tax have receded but have never gone away.

Hidden in one bill, S. 2020, currently in conference committee, is a proposal that would require companies to re-evaluate their crude oil stocks at an estimated cost of $5 billion. Make no mistake, this is a backdoor windfall profit tax, and its damage to the industry and the American economy would be immeasurable.

In fact, a similar tax was repealed during the 1980s after depressing the American oil industry, increasing our reliance on foreign fuel and causing significant damage to the economy.

If, as some claim, consumers are being gouged at the pump, then punishment should absolutely follow. However, penalties should be delivered on a case-by-case basis. High profits are not evidence of wrongdoing, rendering a blanket punishment of the oil companies utterly indefensible. This is nothing but grandstanding on the part of our elected representatives. I am glad that many politicians have resisted this type of demagoguery.

While I understand that there is some popular support for the aforementioned proposals on this issue, avoiding potential damage to the economy and protecting America's retirees is of greater importance than placating constituents.

In fact, a recent study released by Investors' Action Foundation shows that the average pension may lose as much as $5,465 in potential gains over the next five years, affecting hundreds of thousands of Missourians. The best solution is for Congress to encourage the energy companies to spend their profits on exploration and research and development.

During the State of the Union address, the president showed that he understands the problem when he called for energy diversification and technological innovation as ways to lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Energy companies stand to gain the most from any new technology they develop, and profits earned today are being used to finance much of their research. A windfall profit tax in any form would deplete necessary resources and prolong the problems associated with our addiction to foreign oil.

Americans should be pleased to know that our government is committed to stable, sustainable sources of energy close to home to wean us from our reliance on foreign oil.

Energy is not the only issue. Our nation's security depends on our ability to develop more diverse sources of energy.

Our ability to drill in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- and explore other areas -- and to modernize the nation's regulatory process to allow faster expansions and modifications of refinery and energy infrastructure capacity would ensure a secure future for our children.

Now that our leaders have spoken, it is time for Congress to act. With a willing public and eager president, our federal legislators have the opportunity to affect a major change in America's energy policy. We should urge Congress to develop a responsible energy policy, one that is focused on making energy more accessible and affordable to the consumer and opposed to new taxes on energy companies.

Reid Forrester is a business owner in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: