Friday, April 28, 2006

Tax Those Dammed Profits - Not!

As always, throughout my career, I am exasperated by the average joe politican's knee jerk reaction to oil companies making profits when their product prices are high. For once I endorse Bush. And I'll explain why.

The oil industry supplies an essential basic need - energy - mainly in the form of gasoline, or at least that is what the public perceives. Gasoline is the cheapest, most efficiently produced commodity ever distributed to all corners of this planet. Of course, by the time governments have tinkered around with taxes, etc., it doesn't seem to be that inexpensive, but it is. Try comparing a gallon gasoline with just about any other product you might purchase in bulk and only one other item comes close. Natural gas.

Yet petroleum is seen to be the great scapegoat. When prices are horribly low, no mention is made of the fact. Extremely low prices have become the base line on which society judges whether or not the oil companies are gouging, windfalling or whatever. I doubt if there is another industry that is judged in this way.

So, with spiralling energy costs it is natural that anyone who needs to justify their existence would start to mouth off about the indecent profits being made by the big oil companies. And so we have the call to apply windfall taxes to the excessive profiteering that is going on.

Where Bush is particularly right is that he insists that the profits be re-invested in looking for replacements, whether that be more hydrocarbons or alternative energy sources. Oil companies tend to do oil better than anything, so their profits should be re-invested in replacing production. They better had do that or their business will shrink. In fact the reason we have such high prices now is because that reinvestment hasn't been possible in the recent past, either due to low prices or high windfall taxes on higher prices. I know because I've had to work (or not) through major slumps since 1983.

There used to be a bumper sticker in Texas that said "Dear Lord, Please Send Us Another Boom, We Promise Not To Screw It Up Next Time!" Well, we've got a boom and this time we'd better not screw it up. And the politicians had better not try to screw it up either. But we know they will and who do you think will ultimately get the blame?