Oil and Gas

The Business of Politics

Oilman J. Paul Getty said it best: "If business is your profession, then you should make politics your business." On May 23, 2008, a congressional committee summoned four executives to explain the ever-increasing gasoline prices at the pump. Democratic California Congresswomen Maxine Waters challenged Shell Oil President John Hofmeister to guarantee that the prices at the pump would go down if oil companies were allowed to drill wherever they wanted. Hofmeister replied, "I can guarantee to the American people, because of the inaction of the United States Congress, ever-increasing prices unless the demand comes down, and the $5 will look like a very low price in the years to come if we are prohibited from finding new reserves, new opportunities to increase supplies." Pointing her index finger to Hofmeister, Waters responded, "Guess what this liberal will be about? This liberal will be all aboutsocializinguh.uhwill be about basically taking over and government running all your companies."

In May 2008, the verbal exchange between Hofmeister and Waters served as comedic entertainment across the mainstream media and the Internet. We could not believe she actually said that. Though we were aware such a political mindset existed in our country, we were comfortable that it was not an eminent threat. Right?

Fast-forward 18 months, and it is not so funny anymore. In fact, it is downright chilling. Why? Because what Maxine Waters proclaimed is actually unfolding before our eyes in the auto, banking, health care and insurance industries in the U.S. Control in Washington and the U.S. Congress has slipped into the hands of some far left liberals.

I have many good Democratic friends who do not own what is happening in Washington. The oil and gas industry has always prospered in times of a Democrat-controlled White House. While some may disagree with that statement, it is true for the most part. Yet, the energy agenda of President Obama's administration is no doubt one unequivocally opposed to the well being of our country's energy security and to the domestic oil and gas industry. All of President Obama's Cabinet members have made it clear that the president's agenda is to strip the domestic oil industry of $30 billion in much needed tax incentives:

Timothy Geithner, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury: "We don't believe it makes sense to significantly subsidize the production and use of sources of energy [like oil and gas] that are dramatically going to add to our climate change [problem]. We don't think that's good economic policy, and we think changing those incentives is good for the country."

Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of Interior: "The American people want to know they are getting a fair deal. That means we are going to take another look at royalty rates. It means that tax breaks that are no longer needed, and which the American people can't afford, will disappear."

Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: "Just two things about natural gas. As a chemical engineer I have to point out that methane, natural gas is the feedstock for the vast majority of chemical manufacturing in this country. The long-term move toward natural gas would probably not be a great idea for our country because we're giving up its ability to be used as a feed stock for fertilizer, for chemicals, for a whole bunch of other industries that need it."

Alan Krueger, assistant Treasury secretary: "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 green house-gas emissions and build a new, clean energy economy."

From the lips of those in the oil and gas industry as well as millions of American citizens: "I don't like the way things are going down in Washington. What can we do?"

All of which is why I have always liked this quote from oilman J. Paul Getty: "If business is your profession, then you should make politics your business." That simple statement by Getty says it all. Some might say, "It does not mean me; I'm not in business." Not true. We are all in business one way or another, directly or indirectly.

Like it or not, all of us are at fault for not taking care of our business, which is the business of protecting the precious freedom to vote and be counted. So many courageous men and women have fought and died for us to own that right and are doing so as you read these words. We simply fell asleep at the wheel of our ship while she ran aground, and some folks climbed on board and took over as we slept. We became far too comfortable that someone else was looking after us. The freedom of choice and the freedom to vote is one that should be taken personally.

Politics is every citizen's business. Getting involved can be as simple as going to the polls to vote if you have not in the past or maybe taking someone to vote who has no transportation. Learn about your local legislators and congressional leaders. All political races are important because the elected represent you. I am guilty myself, because in some races I do not learn more about the individuals seeking office and pull the lever blindly. Business organizations, such as special interest associations, chambers of commerce and civic groups, are all conduits to being involved in the political arena.

I sometimes liken the world of politics to a sport. Do you go to the game as a spectator? Are you dressing out and hoping to get into the game? Maybe you prefer to sell hotdogs in the stands. It does not matter what you do, just as long as you participate.

Yes, these are difficult times. However, we are blessed in our community to have the vision and leadership that we have. Lafayette Parish is not reeling with the unemployment crisis other parts of the country are facing. We all should make politics our business.

Don Briggs lives in Lafayette and has been president of the Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association since 1992.