The Obama administration’s Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has had a very busy first six weeks. His agency, which handles most domestic energy leasing, has already canceled many onshore oil and natural gas leases. Interior has also slowed to a crawl any progress on new offshore oil leases, and has done the same for oil shale in Colorado. The pro-energy promise of 2008, when President Bush and Congress belatedly began to respond to skyrocketing pump prices by allowing increased domestic production, has already been reversed. In this short span, Interior has embarked on an anti-domestic energy path that stands in contrast not only to Bush but Clinton as well.
Now it’s the Department of the Treasury’s turn to join the anti-energy push. The budget includes a number of provisions, the effect of which is to raise taxes on domestic energy production. For example, there are increased fees on Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production, repeal of the manufacturing tax deduction for oil and natural gas companies, as well as accounting changes unfavorable to drilling. The anti-energy bias was particularly clear in the repeal of the manufacturer’s tax deduction, which still applies to all other industries except oil and gas production. Overall, $31 billion in additional revenues are to be collected, and from an industry that by most measures already has effective tax rates as high or higher than the industrial average.
So the one-two punch of Interior and Treasury energy policy under President Obama is to make unavailable as much new domestic oil and gas as is possible, and to make what is available as unprofitable to pursue as possible. It is as if a return to last summer’s $4 a gallon gas is the goal.