by Herbert J. Schmidt
president of Contract Freighters, Inc.
Any time there is a change of control in our legislature, there are corresponding shifts in the direction of policy. As Democrats move into leadership positions, I hope they act with reason rather than emotion, with respect to energy policy. In the face of high energy prices and record oil company profits, I'm sure that will not be easy to do. Many times, however, the easy thing to do isn't the right thing to do, especially when it comes to public policy.
When fuel prices skyrocketed to record highs this year, my inclination, like most others, was to go for the jugular and to point fingers at big oil. I, like many, wanted a piece of their hide. However, as I cooled down and tried to understand the complexity of things that drive fuel prices, I realized there are better long-term solutions than tying energy companies to the whipping post.
My main concern with the Democrats, including our own Claire McCaskill, is that they have consistently campaigned that energy companies need to be punished. If they find improprieties, I agree, accountability is important. However, punishment in the form of repealing tax breaks and imposing additional taxes on energy company profits is a short-sighted solution to a larger problem. If they are legislatively successful with their "punishment tax" mentality, please remember, as you stand on the sideline and cheer this mentality, that any repeal of tax breaks and new taxes imposed on energy companies will ultimately be passed on to all of us in the form of higher fuel prices at the pumps and higher utility bills in our homes. Punishment in the form of taxation and regulation filters back to all of us through the higher prices we pay for goods and services.
I wish I understood all of the nuances that drive energy prices. I don't, nor will pretend to. I have studied it enough, however, to get a glimpse of the complexity of the issue, and I do believe there is a not so complex solution that our government can help with. We must develop policies and programs to conserve fuel and aggressively invest in alternative sources of energy, including alternative fuels. In the meantime, however, we must also stop blocking initiatives for oil exploration and additional refineries and work toward making current production more efficient. Only government and private industry, working together, can accomplish this. They've got to get serious, and they've got to get in sync. Higher taxes on energy companies is not the solution, as we would only be taxing ourselves.