Gertsch: Energy Policy Change Unlikely

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

President Clinton's proposed energy tax and the new energy secretary's budget do not show promise of great change in U.S. energy policy, which has focused on cheap oil, a speaker said Wednesday in Oklahoma City at "Energy 2001."

"We do have an energy policy. It's called Desert Storm," said W. Darrell Gertsch, associate vice president of research at the University of Oklahoma and assistant director of Sarkey's Energy Center at OU.

He spoke at "Energy 2001," sponsored by several Oklahoma energy companies. The symposium concludes today at the Myriad Convention Center.

"When it looks like something's going to happen to Middle East oil, we're in there with knees and elbows," Gertsch said.

Clinton's proposed British thermal unit-based energy tax is aimed to raise revenues, help the environment, increase U.S. industrial efficiency and competitiveness, create jobs and reduce foreign oil imports.

Gertsch noted, however, that government plans often produce the opposite of stated goals. He offered several counterpoints to show how that would happen under Clinton's plans. Many independent oil and gas producers in Oklahoma also have argued, particularly, that the energy tax would increase foreign oil imports.

"There are infinitely better ways to use tax policy to effect fuel policy," Gertsch said.

One he suggested is a value-added tax at the consumer level similar to the sales tax. That sort of tax is what is used in Europe, and there are current proposals to increase that tax abroad. Under the Btu-based tax, levied at or closer to the production end of the fuel stream, Gertsch said the ripple effect is magnified for the consumer, not diminished. Yet, it is less overt.

Another indicator of U.S. energy policy in reality, Gertsch said, is the Department of Energy's new fiscal 1994 budget request under Clinton's Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary.

"Watergate was right. Follow the money," Gertsch said.

One-third of O'Leary's $19.6 billion budget request, or $5.9 billion, is earmarked for defense spending on purported energy security measures, he noted. …