Oil, gas industry fends off Obama’s proposed ‘Energy Security Trust’ with new poll results

Brendan Thomas Contributor
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Seventy-four percent of voters believe “now is not the time for politicians in Washington to raise energy taxes,” according to a new Harris Interactive poll the American Petroleum Institute (API) commissioned.

The poll of 1,000 registered voters, 92 percent of whom voted in the last presidential election, took place from March 8 to March 17, weeks after President Barack Obama proposed in his State of the Union Address that “we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

“We could raise far more revenue to the government in the form of income taxes and royalties and lease bid payments,” Stephen Comstock, API’s director for tax and accounting policy, said in a conference call accompanying the poll’s release Thursday.

Comstock cited a study by Wood Mackenzie, a research and consulting firm, showing that, with a “full program of development,” the oil and gas industry could potentially deliver $800 billion annually to the federal treasury, as opposed to only $4 billion in new taxes.

API describes such a program as “approving the Keystone pipeline, speeding up drilling permits, ending costly and unattainable ethanol mandates and opening up some of the 83 percent of federal lands and waters that remain off limits.”

Recently the State Department cleared the way for presidential approval of Keystone. Experts say ethanol subsidies are likely pushing up gasoline prices, and despite Obama’s claims of “cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits” in his address, the Congressional Research Service reported in February production on federal lands is down.

The Harris poll comes at a time when 58 percent of voters believe the country is “on the wrong track,” according to its respondents. Comstock said expanding domestic oil and gas production would help the country address its unemployment, debt and deficit problems.

Among other findings, the poll (with a three percent margin of error) shows: 57 percent of respondents think energy tax hikes would negatively affect the economy; 69 percent think they would lead to higher energy prices; and 63 percent think targeting the country’s oil and gas industry would be “unfair and discriminatory.”

Responses varied only slightly across party lines among respondents, mostly over 35-years old with at least some college education and skewing Independent or Democrat, while leaning conservative overall.

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