(Editor’s Note: The following letter was submitted to The Oklahoman on Feb. 5 but was not published. We have published the letter instead. NonDoc runs Letters to the Editors up to about 300 words and reserves the right to edit lightly for style and grammar. To submit a letter for publication, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
We are now in the depths of another huge downturn in the fossil-energy business. This is the second up-close such event for me, and despite repeated pronouncements that, “We learned our lesson in the ’80s,” too many young families and countless businesses are now in harm’s way.
Industry hubris is clearly a root cause, but so is our state energy-taxation policy, eagerly put in place by pandering politicians. By failing to properly tax energy, our legislators have enabled companies to act foolishly with no long-term strategic planning.
Stating the obvious, as worldwide commodities, oil and gas are subject to the ancient principle of supply and demand. This should make for a rather elemental study in existential business risk.
Appropriate tax policy carries to business the message that a portion of my economic activity affects fellow citizens. Thus, sound policy acts as a check on risky behavior. In Oklahoma, the most egregious is the gross-production tax that starts at nearly nothing and effectively continues that way as well output diminishes. This matter begs comparison to North Dakota.
Additionally, fossil-fuel subsidies in the U.S. tax code are legendary, beginning with intangible drilling costs in 1916 and continuing to enhanced recovery in 1980 and beyond. Has any other business sector enjoyed such largess?
Now of great concern is our state public-school system. Is there a more important qualitative societal input? Even our nationally recognized pre-k program may be in jeopardy. A full-page chart in the Feb. 1 edition of The Oklahoman describing education funding by state since 2008 is most provocative. Assuming the chart is accurate, how interesting that North Dakota, with a very sensible energy tax, is improving state education funding, and our state leads in de-funding.
Finally, by delay and denying the simple science of high-pressure waste-water injection-induced seismicity, the industry has now both alienated citizens and prolonged its own agony.