John Podesta and Geoff Garin are skilled political operatives who will spare no effort to help Democrats win elections. So their messaging memo urging Democrats to demonize the American oil sector to score political points - posted on the Politico website March 24 - should be viewed as political propaganda, rather than sound energy policy.
The political memo falsely claims that the oil sector gets federal subsidies. But companies that produce oil and natural gas and that manufacture fuels and petrochemicals don’t get a penny of subsidies. We just get the same types of tax deductions and credits as other American manufacturers.
In addition, the memo falsely claims that oil companies work to “manipulate the price and supply of gasoline to increase their profit,” but 36 government investigations since 1973 have all found such allegations are baseless.
The memo falsely claims American companies are oil exporters and says such exports should end. In truth, our nation imports about 60 percent of the crude oil we use. We also are a net importer of gasoline, but a net exporter of refined petroleum products overall - primarily diesel fuel.
“More exports mean more jobs,” President Obama said in his Feb. 18 weekly address, adding that “we need to invest in American-made energy.” As American manufacturers of the fuels that keep our nation moving, we agree - and so should Mr. Podesta and Mr. Garin.
Finally, the Podesta-Garin memo calls for more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. Those are coming, and we are not seeking a return to the low-mileage vehicles of the past. However, future improvements in fuel efficiency must be technologically and economically feasible or the consumer will suffer.
Neither Mr. Podesta nor Mr. Garin are energy experts. Mr. Podesta, who became White House chief of staff under President Clinton after years as a Democratic aide in the U.S. Senate, is founder and chairman of the Center for American Progress and advises a super PAC raising money for President Obama’s re-election. Mr. Garin is a veteran Democratic pollster who boasts on his firm’s website of having “a well-earned reputation for helping candidates win in difficult circumstances.”
At a time of rising gasoline prices, Mr. Obama’s anti-fossil fuels crusade has certainly put him in “difficult circumstances.” The president has repeatedly refused to increase the U.S. supply of oil - which accounts for 76 percent of the price of gasoline - even though such action would put downward pressure on gasoline prices.
For example, the president has refused to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring more than 800,000 barrels of oil every day from Canada, Montana and North Dakota to Gulf Coast refineries. He has also barred drilling and exploration for oil on the vast majority of federal lands and waters, while camouflaging this policy by highlighting increased drilling on private lands that remain outside the scope of his anti-oil policies.
Mr. Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has created a blizzard of conflicting regulations on oil producers, fuel manufacturers and petrochemical plants that raise energy costs by billions of dollars, are sometimes impossible to comply with, and accomplish little or nothing for the environment. Almost daily he calls for discriminatory energy-tax increases that could further raise the costs of producing oil and manufacturing fuels.
Mr. Obama has made it clear in the past that his chief energy goal is not to lower fuel prices, but to get Americans off fossil fuels as quickly as possible by forcing up the price of petroleum products and heavily subsidizing “alternatives.”
The U.S. Energy Department has poured $14.5 billion in loans - financed by your tax dollars - into “alternative” energy companies, some of which have gone bankrupt and laid off their workers. These include the Solyndra solar-energy company, which is unable to repay a $535 million federally backed loan.
The president has also backed other multibillion-dollar energy subsidies, such as the $7,500 that now goes to each buyer of a new electric car - a subsidy he now wants to raise to $10,000 because so few people are buying electric vehicles.
The polling data that is the foundation of the Podesta-Garin memo is based on questions phrased in an extremely negative and misleading manner about the oil sector, eliciting a predictably negative response.
Mr. Garin would not dare ask Americans if they favor an oil and natural-gas sector that supports more than 9 million American jobs, pays more than $31 billion in federal taxes and pays additional billions to states and localities, and strengthens America’s economic and national security. Such a question would undoubtedly elicit very different responses.
It’s unfortunate that instead of working to serve the best interests of American families and businesses, Mr. Obama and his allies are playing political games, working to mislead the American people about our energy future to please extremist special interests and generate campaign contributions.
Charles T. Drevna is president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.