Fairness should be guide to energy tax reform


by NW Spotlight

As the United States came out of its recent recession, 40 percent of the new jobs created between 2007 and 2012 were energy jobs. This one industry sustains our economy more than any other.

This makes Wednesday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing on reforming our outdated energy tax code all the more important. Our own Sen. Ron Wyden will be among the Senate members speaking, along with industry leaders, analysts and educators.

I hope the committee will come away from this hearing with a renewed understanding of the importance of the energy industry in the American economy and a knowledge of the damage that poor energy tax policy could do as we still struggle to put Americans to work.

Unfortunately, I fear that some in the administration do not get it. They seem to believe that the energy industry is one to attack and fear and that it should somehow be punished, despite carrying the nation through the recession. And to punish it, they incorrectly and unfairly characterize ordinary tax credits and deductions as subsidies.

Two examples: The administration wants to deny energy companies the Section 199 tax credits that all manufacturers and producers get for creating new jobs as well as dual capacity tax credits for taxes paid to foreign governments. Margo Thorning writes in greater detail about these unfair attacks on the energy industry.

But the bottom line is that these measures would severely damage not only the energy industry, but also the American economy. That hardly seems like a good idea when it comes to tax reform.

The energy industry haters want us to believe that somehow oil and gas companies are tricking the American public, stealing our money and paying much less than their fair share of taxes. The facts show the opposite is true.

Last year The New York Times (hardly a conservative cheerleader) analyzed effective tax rates between 2007 and 2012. Lo and behold, the energy industry came in at 37 percent, compared to 29 percent for companies in the Standard & Poor’s index as a whole. U.S. News & World Report does a nice job of summarizing the analysis if you want the details.

Let the facts show that the energy industry is paying its fair share and then some. Tax reform should make the system more fair, not target one industry for punitive measures.