As someone who’s held a driver license since Richard Nixon was in the White House, it’s hard for me to drum up any sympathy for the big oil companies.
Not when I read of mammoth profits that exceed the gross national product of some countries, or paying nearly a dollar more for a gallon of gas than I made per hour in my first minimum wage job, as I had the privilege of doing many times over 2006.
So when House lawmakers recently approved legislation, under the moniker “Energy Security Bill,” that repealed $14 billion of tax breaks to oil and gas companies and closed a loophole in offshore drilling leases, I thought I would be giddier than I am.
After all, it was a classic example of schadenfreude.
Big oil, as it were, was finally getting its comeuppance.
New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for one, stopped just short of performing cartwheels across the Capitol rotunda.
While the oil company executives no doubt enjoy windfalls that some of us could never envision, many average workers, a demographic whom the Democrats claim to champion, may likely be on the receiving end of the bill’s trickle-down effect -- albeit a small one.
As is the standard for most large publicly held companies, shares of oil and gas concerns are both held by individual investors and public institutions such as state and local pension systems.
If you take one of the larger states, say California for example, its massive pension system had nearly $10 billion invested in local oil and gas equities. My home state, New York, had slightly less at just over $9 billion.
Now, those figures probably seem minute in comparison to what those institutions had in general equities, but on a national scale pension systems across the country had between 2.5 and 5 percent invested in oil and gas companies, in total comprising about 10 percent of the industry’s market cap.
To me, at least, it would stand to reason that if the legislation passes, said companies would stand to have less money for production and investments and, by proxy, lower share prices for those assets in the various pension funds and retirement monies.
Additionally, the proposal repeals just one provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and that, according to figures from the Congressional Budget Office, would save the U.S. Treasury $104 million over 10 years -- less than 1 percent of the entire package of energy tax incentives included in the Energy Policy Act.
In the end, the legislation may not make a discernable dent in many working people’s comfort levels during retirement after all.
But somehow, no matter how well intentioned, the taxpayer always seems to bear the brunt.
And one image the Democrats would rather not see is some oil company executive wagging his finger at the new House Speaker, telling her, “I told you so.”
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