Obama Administration: US Has Overinvested In Oil, Gas

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Sept. 11, 2009

The Obama administration opened a new front in its effort to impose $31.5 billion in taxes on oil and gas companies, saying that the nation puts too much emphasis on oil and gas at the expense of other industries.

The chief economist in the Obama administration's Treasury Department testified before a Senate panel that current subsidies "lead to overinvestment" in the oil and gas industry. That went beyond previous statements about the need to protect taxpayers and was the clearest signal yet that the federal government hopes to end its role in nurturing domestic oil and gas production.

"To the extent that current subsidies for the oil and gas industry encourage the overproduction of oil and natural gas, they divert resources from other, potentially more efficient investments, and they are inconsistent with the Obama administration's goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and build a new, clean energy economy," Alan Krueger, the Treasury's chief economist, told the panel.

"That's absurd," said Devon Energy Corp. (DVN) Chief Executive Larry Nichols, the chairman of the American Petroleum Institute, before the panel. "At a time when respected energy studies agree on the need to increase all sources of domestic energy, it makes absolutely no sense to discourage production of our leading sources, oil and natural gas."

For years, Republicans encouraged oil as part of an "all of the above" strategy intended to reduce reliance on imports, especially from unstable parts of the world. But the Obama administration is trying to shift the debate amid a focus on global warming. Oil is viewed by the Obama administration as part of the problem because transportation accounts for more than a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The new rhetoric isn't sitting well with Congress. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, warned that the U.S. would be "at a tremendous disadvantage" if the country turned its back on oil, gas and coal. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., a moderate voice in the Democratic party, cited "concerns" about some of the proposals, urging sensitivity to regional interests. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., used stronger language.

"We are 62% imported from not very friendly countries right now on oil," Bunning said. Krueger replied: "That's correct. The best way for us to reduce" -- but Bunning cut him off. "Is to become less independent -- is that what you're saying?" Bunning said.

The Obama administration also may run into inconsistencies as it shapes its own energy program. By taking away tax incentives for gas production, the U.S. would be discouraging a cleaner-burning fossil fuel that is seen by some environmentalists as central to transitioning away from coal.

"This counterproductive approach is also at odds with the administration's own carbon reduction policy because it would discourage the production of natural gas, our cleanest fossil fuel," said Nichols.  

Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.

J Mathew  |  September 22, 2009
I am inclined to agree with the Obama administration though it will call for careful implementation. Investing in more energy efficient technology and alternative energy is more important to the US than increasing O&G production, by subsidizing the E&P industry. As of today, more than 60% of the world's known crude reserves are in the Middle East with production costs much lower than the costly reserves of the US and certain other parts of the world. Another region with considerable reserves is North Africa and together with the Middle East holds more than 70% of known crude reserves.

Stability of the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) is important, and that needs to be achieved through political engagement rather than forceful engagement. By putting in subsidies and other protection methods in the US E&P industry, on one part the US is wasting a considerable amount of its valuable resources for a wrong cause (which otherwise could be used in other areas) and on the other hand leading to excessive creation of wealth in MENA, which given the political instabilities and other reasons could be ending up in wrong hands. Therefore, the US needs to make radical shift in both the energy consumption pattern through efficient technology and alternative energy with a more sustainable foreign policy, rather than spending large amounts subsidizing the E&P industry on the context of self-reliance. This will also lead to more energy security in the long run, rather than short term self reliance.

J.K VonRuff  |  September 21, 2009
This is another example of the President and Congress missing the point. I wonder who they talked to before they came to these ridiculous notions. They keep talking about reducing unemployment in these difficult economics times and yet they once again are proposing actions that will cripple the Oil & Gas industries, and cost the US millions of jobs. How big do the unemployment numbers need to go before they get it, or will they ever?
Ronald Ashford  |  September 21, 2009
We as consumers have put ourselves in this predicament. We build houses that require all kind of energy so we can live in them, rather than using passive heating and cooling designs. We build automobiles that require power draining heating and cooling units just so we can travel in the thing. In the old days we could open windows and floor vents to get circulation through everything. Now, we oversize everything from our food to our automobiles and trucks. We are our own worst enemy.
David Pope  |  September 19, 2009
Again the Obama presidency and his cronies are cutting the legs out from under this country. As a 28 year worker in the oil and gas industry, I fully realize the economic impact that our energy policy or lack of affects the country. We should surely develop future alternative energy sources, but not at the expense of our economic and national security. I agree with the thinking of T. Boone Pickens as far as securing energy needs.
Kemp Pierce  |  September 18, 2009
I'm becoming more & more concerned as are others I have talked with, in the direction this administration is going. There is not enough news on the TV as well as newspapers regarding the positive & negatives of new legislation that is being presented. The American people are not being informed enough & the press is not doing its job by only giving us information they want us to know.
Lesley Decker  |  September 18, 2009
We all need to start writing letters of concern regarding our dependence on foreign oil to all politicians. It's all well and good reading about this, but we the people have to do something. We must write to our Congressmen/women and demand that they assist us in becoming less dependent on foreign oil. We all know that these foreign countries only need to squeeze the tap closed, just a little, and we're in really big trouble. Voice your concern now before it's too late.
Jim Terry  |  September 18, 2009
Foreign dependence must be reduced or history will repeat itself. We have natural gas in the US and what is lacking is demand. Conversion of power generation to NG rather than coal reduces emissions and we should ramp up the conversion of cars and heavy vehicles to CNG further reducing emissions. There is no downside to improving the demand equation for cleaner burning natural gas that is readily available domestically. Furthermore, there is an abundance of natural gas available from more friendly nations on much more favorable terms than imported oil. Obama is dead wrong on this issue and it is not even a complex one at that.
Rod Siller  |  September 18, 2009
"The US has overinvested in oil, gas, but the US government loaned Petrobras $2 billion to help develop an oil field offshore Brazil? What? Am I missing something here?" Well from downunder here it looks like a real cluster. The US puts high tariffs on Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane so the US ethanol firms buy up corn and produce high cost (protected) ethanol resulting in an increasing demand for corn and subsequent price rises. This affects poor people worldwide who can't afford to pay higher prices.

So now they're loaning money to the Brazilians to drill for oil to sell to the USA instead of clean ethanol to blend into gasoline to reduce greenhouse gases. So you lose jobs in the oil business, drive up the price of corn and subsidize someone else to provide you oil and increase greenhouse gases (a little by the way -- it's all a load of claptrap) at the same time? I thought that charity begins at home? Why not loan the money to the domestic industry to create oil jobs at home, buy Brazilian ethanol and stop starving the world's very poorest.

Barry Griswold  |  September 18, 2009
Yes indeed. The Obama Administration extended credit to Brazil's Petrobras recently. Rest assured there is big oil offshore Brazil. It should be produced. Why though did he favor Petrobras? Oh yes, and don't forget about the windmill maker GE! He likes wind and solar. Problem is YOU CANT DO IT OVERNIGHT! The world runs on OIL.

What I want to know is why Obama has it in for us who are drilling and producing here oil and gas at HOME in the USA?

Kevin H. Pollard  |  September 18, 2009
This certainly is not the way to stimulate more exploration and development, much less encourage higher risk new technology development. This will encourage more development overseas, less in the United States and slow economic recovery because of higher related costs. And it absolutely does not improve the security of the United States.

This smacks of a poorly thought through, ill-advised effort to "stimulate" alternative energy sources and reduce carbon emissions.

Doesn't Harvard require Economics 101 for all of its students?

Elijah  |  September 18, 2009
God help us for the next 3 1/2 years! I work for a drilling company that has continued to move their rigs out of the gulf. This has been costing jobs! If we do not continue and expand drilling in the US, we will become even more dependent on OPEC.
Jim Adams  |  September 18, 2009
Our beloved President is at it again! Tax, tax and more taxing that is what this is about and of course control! Control of people and their movement.
Matthew B Engineer  |  September 16, 2009
Global Warming and Green House Gas is a myth, at best a theory. The journalist should state this. Neither Global Warming or Greenhouse Gas is scientific fact.
Robert D McCutchen  |  September 16, 2009
The question is "Has the US oil and gas companies and the US government over invested in oil and gas in the US or has OPEC overinvested in the Obama government?" Astounding!
Mike  |  September 15, 2009
Common Sense -- invest less & become more dependent on imports -- seems to make no sense. The cleanest fuel we have that is ready to use is natural gas; it appears our resource base is growing with shale gas and not encouraging & using it makes no sense for security or the environment.
Kory  |  September 14, 2009
The US has overinvested in oil, gas, but the US government loaned Petrobras $2 billion to help develop an oil field offshore Brazil? What? Am I missing something here?
john hadfield  |  September 14, 2009
If we didn't have this sorry tax system and just taxed the end user a sales tax then the industry and everybody else wouldn't need special tax treatment. Why don't we solve the real problem and quit throwing rocks at the wall.
Bevan  |  September 14, 2009
This commitment by Obama to destroy America's energy industry is a crime against America. Reagan thought he could do it safely when he destroyed 6 million energy-related jobs in 1986, and destroyed any chance of America being energy independent. Obama's plan is worse -- to destroy American energy security completely.

By forcing the closure of refineries, pipelines, and production wells, Obama just makes us more dependent on foreign oil. Of course, we will not be able to afford it, so instead of a growing economy, we will be in poverty.

Evelyn  |  September 14, 2009
I love the idea of clean energy fossil fuel; I think this administration is on the right track to help the dependency of America free from foreign oil and until then we have to prove to the Middle East that we want to be independent and sufficient. We need to stand on our own and not depend on others so much; we have the technology and education we need to use it. We need to bring all the American companies back to America. We are a independent country and I really believe President Barack Obama is going to do his best to bring our jobs back to America so we can support our families as we use to do in the past.
Bruce Kennedy  |  September 14, 2009
I think that since we are in a global recession that Congress needs to bring back our tax dollars that the Obama Administration has given to Brazil and Qatar, and other foreign countries to drill for oil & gas. We went from employing thousands of people in the Gulf Of Mexico to having one of the highest unemployment rates. With this new tax on the U.S. oil companies, more hurt on American families is inevitable. I know that my thoughts about this issue may not mean much to many, but look at the money we pay in taxes that is leaving the U.S. and being given to other countries, ahead of us. What is it gonna take? Many people have asked. I guess more people will lose their housing and way of living due to the politics of companies being forced to close their doors as we send our dollars overseas to buy our oil & gas products. I think someone needs his hand slapped for thinking its o.k. to use our tax dollars out of our country to promote drilling and exploration in another country.
Charles Copeland  |  September 14, 2009
By taking the tax incentives you discourage American exploration and production and increase our dependence on foreign oil. For every drilling rig that is shut down by this you put 1,000 American workers out of a job -- both those that work on rigs and those that support and provide products and services.
Nik  |  September 14, 2009
Change has to start from the TOP. I have yet to see full use of all the fantastic technology which was ultimately intended to reduce our need for so many resources.

Get the technology out of the movies and military, and into the workplace... Promote it and support it!

I say to the politicians: "walk the walk" then "talk the talk".

Alan  |  September 14, 2009
Hey USA...Take one look at what the politicians in Alberta, Canada did. They restructured and ran all the business into the two provinces on each side of the richest oil province and shot themselves in the foot. It still helped Canada but sure hurt Alberta. If you guys do what you say you are going to do you will hurt America as a whole.
Eddie Atwood  |  September 14, 2009
The Oil & Gas industry has never received a dime in subsidies. People confuse the reduction in penalizing & burdensome taxes w/ a subsidy. The O&G industry, its employees, and the related businesses already pay more in taxes to the federal government than any other industry by far. We cannot rely on energy sources from unfriendly nations. Natural Gas is our "short term" answer & must be exploited to the fullest. It will be better for our economy and security. The "at risk jobs" is not the earlier mentioned 2% of the workforce employed by the O&G, it is double or triple if you add in all the small businesses that support that 2%.
Jeremy  |  September 14, 2009
The current administration has either not thought through the ramifications of its policy changes or, worse, is not competent to make them in the first place. While we all agree that alternative energy sources are the end goal, until they are perfected for commercial use and accepted on a mass scale, it makes no sense to disincentivize the use, exploration, or production of oil and natural gas. To say that we are overinvested is ludicrous. When was the last time significant capacity was added to our refining capabilities, Mr. Obama?
Michael Kudla  |  September 14, 2009
Others posting here are more sophisticated than I in this area but I still have a question. If oil and gas are such bad things, then why the $10 billion in Petrobras?
RICHARD L. COX  |  September 14, 2009
Does this administration not realize the role the O & G Industry plays in the worldwide economy? Regardless of where I or anyone else is employed, the world still depends on oil and gas to provide a stable transportation and energy system. If they continue to focus on the industry as the bad guys they will soon find out the futile effort to change to alternative energy sources will soon leave the majority of the world in the dark ages, without heat without light and without a means of transporting food and other goods to the people. Wake up people. Do we want another 1930s and 1940s on our hands?
David Garcia  |  September 14, 2009
I'm with Nichols, the way out is to get the rigs off of the grass and let's get people back to work here! I am currently working in Mexico and am embarrassed to have to go and take these people's job. I served my country, and have always flown the American flag proudly in my front yard, but I am starting to feel since Mexico is feeding my family that I need to reconsider which flag to fly!
Patrick  |  September 13, 2009
Noone is talking about ENDING production of domestic oil sources, only shifting government focus to promoting new energy sources that aren't going to bring about climate change. The oil industry seems to be doing more than fine already. The fact that people are whining about paying more for gas or not being able to drive five ton trucks to go buy Wonder Bread at the corner store, when humanity is facing ecological meltdown, makes me despair for the human race. Sometimes I really do think we're just a bunch of lizards.
Allen  |  September 13, 2009
President Reagan and Treasury Secretary James Baker first targeted the tax breaks given to the oil and gas industry in 1982. President Kennedy raised the marginal tax rates to 90% in 1962, and sparked a drilling boom by independents.

Organize a union or join the union of oil and atomic workers. Think outside the box! Wal-Mart reinvented retailing. The companies that reinvent the oil and gas business will change and prosper.

Linda  |  September 13, 2009
During WWI, WWII, and I think the Korean conflict, a job in the oil patch was considered a critical occupation -- critical to the war effort -- with a draft exemption to go with it. I'd like to know what our jets and military vehicles run on now -- it isn't ethanol or bio-diesel! Speaking of same, trucker friend says whenever he got biodiesel, his mileage went down. And remember -- the price of a barrel of oil is set by speculators buying in the commodities market, not by the oil companies. Same for ethanol.
ResourceMarkets.com  |  September 12, 2009
Some facts:

1) According to the United States EIA, over the past three years the Oil and Gas industry has paid $242 billion in federal income taxes.

2) Oil companies pay more than 40 percent in income taxes as a share of their income. Source: United States Internal Revenue Service.

3) 6 million Americans -- 2% of the entire U.S. population -- works in the oil and gas industry.

4) Final point, the United States' jobless rate in August jumped to 9.7 percent, the highest in 23 years.

Barry  |  September 12, 2009
What will this do for the price of transportation fuel, heating oil and LP gas in the US? I suspect it will raise prices so high only the employed mid-class and wealthy can afford it.
John Cook  |  September 12, 2009
This is ridiculous. Energy companies use profits for exploration, which can only create jobs and benefit the country. I bet 75% in our government have never saw a drilling rig, except for the Bruce Willis movie Armageddon, or toured an oil refinery. This will destroy many jobs and hurt the Gulf Coast states big time!
John  |  September 12, 2009
Wait a minute ... ending a government subsidy to a very profitable industry is something objectionable to the small-government-guys?
Liam  |  September 12, 2009
They're doing it wrong -- rather than start /w taxes on oil & gas, instead they need to provide MASSIVE subsidies/direct government intervention/etc for alternative energy (think: Kennedy-esque moonshot for cheap solar power/batteries/etc). And I don't want to hear whining about the cost from the right: Bush kept the wars "off the books" for many years; let's just do the same with this effort.
foamhand  |  September 12, 2009
The whole "Obamanation" of the current administration is appalling when it comes to energy policy. I remember the president proudly announcing on TV a $350 million stimulus grant to the geothermal industry. As someone who spent 10 years of my career drilling & completing geothermal wells at the Geysers in Calif. and in Japan, I can assure you $350 million is chump change compared to what needs to be spent to really grow our domestic geothermal industry.

When the power transmission line alone from the Oxbow / Dixie valley NV geothermal plant to a substation in Bishop CA costs $232 million, the president's grant money won't go very far. $350 BILLION would be more like it. We have lots of geothermal potential in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, and numerous other "hot rock" areas in the US. We need to really go after this very clean and green source of power.

The  |  September 12, 2009
WELL here we go again on this clean energy and again the DEMS/LIBS are trying to shut our oilfield down and put all those boys out of work and the pres is all for this. Amazing he cuts our throat but let's buy from the Middle East. All I can say is where in sam hell is common sense in all this?
Marvin Brandon  |  September 11, 2009
Once again President Obama and his followers show just how inept they are when it comes to business management. As usual their quick and rash comments as well as their actions do nothing but hurt the U.S. economy.

I guess the American people will just have to grin and bear the burden of Obamanomics until they build all these NEW GREEN jobs and industry in about 20 years.

critical chris  |  September 11, 2009
This is absurd!

Prices of oil and natural gas will rise. Believe me the oil companies are going to pass along the costs.

The only time "real money" is invested in alternative fuels is when the energy companies are making money. Its an historical fact!!!

Anyone remember gasoline lines? My goodness, why would anyone want to be anything other than self-sufficient?

Gerald Birt  |  September 11, 2009
I do not agree with the gentlemen who speak well of Obama. Ladies and Gentlemen we are definitly in need of energy to run our country; but, higher cost to produce coal, oil, and natural gas is not going to take us anywhere but to the poor house! This means every citizen in the United States including some of the politicians jogging for position as we write.

We need those resources to build and start the alternative fuel way of life. Making it more cost effective to import coal, oil, and natural gas will not end dependency.

CEOprosper  |  September 11, 2009
In Canada, our Prime Minister loves the Oil and Gas industry and because of that our federal debt is very, very low in comparison to the rest of the world. In some cases our provinces were able to eliminate their provincial deficit and as a result we do not have to pay for health care at all. It all boils down to a leader of a country taking advantage of its resources and using them to their best ability, not slowing them down or making them more expensive. President Obama should think about that maybe.
Dale Bollig  |  September 11, 2009
If Obama was interested in creating job opportunities he would not only allow the incentives to stay in effect but look for additional ways to help the energy industry to thrive again. How many jobs both directly and indirectly could we create in ninety days?


Kurt Watson  |  September 11, 2009
What are these guys thinking. It's not like demand for oil and natural gas demand is going away anytime soon as well as we still have most of it imported is just plain stupid to put the oil and gas industry in a bigger hole than it already is. I for one am unemployed because of this and the less we go after here the more we have to buy from people who do not have our best interests at heart.
Sacalaitslammer  |  September 11, 2009
No talks of nuclear power, so I guess we will have to put solar panels on our homes for power. Natural Gas boils the water to make electricity were I live, so with no natural gas, how do we get power? Wind and solar power does not produce power to run our country! As for as Global Warming, the earth's natural events like volcano eruptions emit more harmful gases into the air than we can dream of emitting. The life cycle of the sun will destroy the earth when the sun's radius expands to the area of Mars. How will we stop that?
Myrto Ashe  |  September 11, 2009
It seems to me that we are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Our scientists insist we have to roll back the atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm, or we will no longer have a planet which is compatible with life (as it has presently evolved). On the other hand, there are vested economic interests in preserving our present energy use -- and changing this is likely to result in dire consequences as well.

We need a concerted effort to develop the resources that will be sustainable (not to mention available) such as that recommended by Robert Hirsch in his report. The fact that we are starting too late cannot be used as an excuse not to start at all.

riserman  |  September 11, 2009
I guess Obama wants to kill the one sector of the country that doesn't have 10%+ unemployment.
Gage Coldwater  |  September 11, 2009
I live in Oklahoma and our communities are dying because of this administration's desire to destroy the oil and gas industry. I thought he was going to create jobs not destroy them. I'm one of the lucky few in our state that still has a job in this industry. If he and his cronies are left unregulated he will put a great many of us into foreclosure. Without oil and gas our country collapses. The electricity for these great electric vehicles still has to be produced and guess what that takes -- coal, gas, and oil.
Bob Fiske  |  September 11, 2009
"Our energy programs won World War II and made us the Super Power that we once were. The U.S. doesn't have to depend on foreign oil and gas as we have our own..." Herman, The oil fields that helped us push the Nazis back into Germany and then oblivion are depleted. The great fields of West Texas are giving back 99% water now. We tipped into the downhill slide in 1972, and no amount of couch-change digging the deepwaters of the Gulf or off of Red Hook are going to reverse that slope.

We need to be putting our subsidy monies into real alternatives, not just more burnables that we have a few more years with. Nat Gas won't pull off the job and using government funds to support industries that have been making record profits in the years that fed this disaster we now enjoy contradicts the appeals of Fiscal Conservatives who would otherwise limit federal spending on unworthy recipients.

Fred Magyar  |  September 11, 2009
"The Obama administration opened a new front in its effort to impose $31.5 billion in taxes on oil and gas companies, saying that the nation puts too much emphasis on oil and gas at the expense of other industries." Gee, will wonders never cease?! Maybe the Obama administration is hinting that it understands that "Peak Oil" is a global issue.

Taxing the Oil industry heavily is one good way to get money into the financially depleted coffers of the Federal Government so that it can be used as seed money in alternative energy and mass transportation projects.

My suggestion to the folks in the fossil fuel energy business sector: wake up and smell the coffee, you will all have to admit reality sooner or later. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!

If you can't lead the way into a new social paradigm then get the heck out of the way and let the a new crop of entrepreneurs and forward thinking individuals do what you can't or won't!

Robert Hefner V  |  September 11, 2009
Simply put, marginal wells account for 60% of US oil. If you tax them, 60% of our production goes offline. The cheapest, most efficient, and most abundant form of fuel in the US is coal. If you get rid of these two energy producers, the United States is left at a SIGNIFICANT disadvantage in the world and will be forced to INCREASE dependence on foreign energy. This policy is simply idiotic and the people need to revolt like they are doing with the health care plan. Go read my grandfather's article in the Economist: http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14222281
Brad Christianson  |  September 11, 2009
Further taxation on exploration and production of O&G will have a 3 fold effect. Greater dependence on foreign oil & natural gas, higher energy prices (including electricity, gasoline, natural gas, etc.) and loss of even more jobs. You aren't going to be able to force people not to drive. They must get to work, that is if they have a job. So we want to burn more coal to power our factories or generate electricity and not use (now very low priced) natural gas which is a much cleaner burning fossil fuel. This makes no sense to me at all. Take away the incentive to explore for these fossil fuels and the government won't be getting taxes on anything.
David  |  September 11, 2009
This is exactly the kind of uneducated nonsense that the majority of the country takes as gospel. Common sense escapes so many people in this country. CLEARLY taxing the industry will hurt the country in various ways:

1. The economy

2. Energy independence

3. Job stability/growth

Aren't these things this administration has said they seek?

Dick Davis  |  September 11, 2009
The US consumer had better get ready for $5.00 a gallon gasoline and large utility bills.
Terry Deschastres  |  September 11, 2009
If the Obama administration is worried about CO2, plant more trees. If you are worried about not so friendly foreign oil sources, keep it local. I guess the govt is more into keeping its base happy than what is good for this country. It is pretty much the truth about everything done by governments.
Gary N, James  |  September 11, 2009
They said that they want to get away from importing oil and gas. We have enough natural gas that we do not need to be importing 3.7 billion cu ft a day from any other countries. And cutting tax incentives from American exploration is not the way to get away from importing. Not to mention the 9 million jobs that it impacts. As bad as it sounds, that's what America wanted when they voted for this administration.
Herman  |  September 11, 2009
I see us as a nation that needs our energy program for many reasons. Our energy programs won World War II and made us the Super Power that we once were. The U.S. doesn't have to depend on foreign oil and gas as we have our own; but we as a people can't agree.

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