Oil industry lobbyist says lower taxes, expanding drilling would mean more jobs listen01/04/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Today, as a new Congress prepares to settle in on Capitol Hill, oil industry lobby group American Petroleum Institute called on lawmakers to ease taxes and regulation on the industry. Before API president and CEO Jack Gerard began his “State of American Energy” address today, the group showed a video touting the oil industry’s economic ripples in local communities.
"Gas and oil have drilled several local wells here that hit pretty good and them alone have brought in a lot of customers to us."
Gerard’s speech focused on the energy industry’s bond with the US economy. He told the audience at the Newseum in Washington, DC, that the US relies on the industry for billions in tax revenue and millions of jobs. Citing an economic study prepared by energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, Gerard called for two things today. One was expansion of oil and gas exploration areas in the US.
"We oppose the recent decision by the Department of Interior to delay the next five year plan process for offshore leasing, the placing of large areas of domestic oil and natural gas off limits, and the slow pace of permitting both onshore and off in areas where exploration and production are allowed."
The other was curbing tax increases on the industry, which he said would inhibit job growth and negatively impact tax revenue in the long run.
"An additional $5 billion in new annual taxes, as proposed by some in the Administration and some in Congress, could actually decrease cumulative government revenue by $128 billion by 2025."
Gerard’s comments come a day after the Obama Administration announced it will allow thirteen oil companies to resume deep water drilling on previously drilled wells without any environmental review. Gerard said today the announcement is good news, but it’s not enough.
"...The thing to really keep your eye on is how many deep water Gulf permits have been issued. And the answer is none today."
He said environmental concerns like climate change and the potential for a repeat of the BP oil disaster should take a back seat to job creation.
"I think the Administration, the Congress, should be focused clearly, in a laser like way, on job creation. Energy is the potential to create a huge number of new American jobs."
Environmentalists are skeptical. Darden Rice, Florida Director of the Gulf Restoration Network, said the oil lobby is trying to quash all other points of view in the drilling debate.
"These energy front groups are coming on very, very strong and over the top with their pro jobs, pro economic arguments and just absolutely take up all the air in the room from anyone who tries to bring up a counter point of view whether it's based on looking at reasonable reform of their industry. Looking at reasonable fines for the laws that they have broken and how they have impacted our environmental laws, our public health laws. It's really part of their strategy to come on very, very strong and to give the Congressional Representatives who are in their camp or who are on the fence, it gives these Congressional people cover to basically vote against the public interest."
She said in 2009 the American Petroleum Institute even went so far as to stage pseudo-grassroots rallies to drum up opposition to cap and trade legislation.
"This was to give the perception that there was ordinary citizen support for pro drilling, anti climate change agenda. But it was discovered that these so called rallies were mostly the energy industry lobbyists and they were mostly energy industry lobbyists dressed in citizen drag."
Rice said the Sunshine State, which currently does not allow drilling in its waters, relies heavily on clean beaches that attract tourists.
"Of course, when you look at the bigger picture and you look at the threat to Florida in particular, we do not have a state income tax, we rely on our $60 billion tourism economy. In Florida the more and more that you look at the arguments for jobs in off shore oil drilling, it's a very weak argument."
She said Louisiana serves as an example of the oil industry’s potential impact on a state coastline, as well as the industry’s ability to influence elected officials.
"Despite the fact that 40 - 60 per cent of Louisiana's wetlands destruction are directly linked to oil and gas activities, no elected official has had the courage to stand up and ask the oil and gas industry to pay for that destruction."
Rice said the API has spent millions of dollars trying influence federal and state drilling policy.
"The American Petroleum Institute has spent a little over $3 million a year lobbying since 2005. You look at Congressman John Mica who is one of the oil industries strongest supporters in Florida has even asked our State Legislature to allow for drilling within 3 miles of the coast. This is a very powerful group, it has very deep pockets and they're willing to do anything and say anything to stop reasonable, responsible, common sense laws to protect the public from the most risky elements of off shore oil drilling."
US Representative John Mica, the Winter Park Republican who has advocated oil drilling in state waters, is the brother of Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director Dave Mica. Rice said Dave Mica had a hand in organizing Tampa’s 2009 anti cap-and-trade rally.