Bob Shavelson (courtesy photo)

Bob Shavelson (courtesy photo)

Voices of the Peninsula: It’s time for Alaskans to stop playing the oil industry’s games

The big oil companies keep moving the ball, because they don’t want us to know the truth.

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2020 10:50pm
  • Opinion

Remember Charlie Brown and the football? Lucy would hold the football, and every time Charlie Brown went to kick it, she’d pull it away at the last second. Charlie Brown would flop onto his back, embarrassed and flabbergasted. He never learned.

Apparently, Sen. Peter Micciche and the big oil companies think we Alaskans are Charlie Brown. They keep telling us the same tired old stories, with the hope we’ll keep falling for them.

If the oil companies have to pay their fair share, they say, Alaska will suffer. If we maintain the current tax regime under Senate Bill 21, Alaska will prosper.

There’s only one problem: all the oil company promises about more jobs, more production and more revenues under Senate Bill 21 have failed to materialize.

Today, Alaska is staring down the barrel of a fiscal crisis that will cut our PFDs and shortchange our ferries, our veterans, our seniors and our kids. And it’s all because we’re not getting our fair share of the oil resources we Alaskans own under the Alaska Constitution.

Let’s not forget the key players who pushed through the current tax regime that’s costing Alaskans hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Gov. Sean Parnell was the former ConocoPhillips lobbyist who requested the bill. Two ConocoPhillips employees — Peter Micciche and Kevin Meyers — cast the deciding votes for the SB21 giveaway in the Senate.

Now, Peter wants us Alaskans to miss the ball again, arguing we should wait until next year so the corporate oil supporters in the Senate can control the process instead of Alaskan voters. Yet our government bureaucrats have refused to even talk about oil tax reform as Alaska’s fiscal crisis has deepened the last two years.

A great example of how the oil industry controls our government and refuses to pay its fair share unfolded a few years ago. The fund to pay for oil spill prevention and response was getting low, and the oil executives were asked to pay a penny per barrel (a barrel is 42 gallons) to help protect our water and fish resources from oil pollution. Guess what? The extra penny was too much to pay. So what happened? The Legislature — controlled by the oil industry — passed the cost on to us Alaskans by charging us higher taxes at the gas pump.

It’s just like the oil company arguments on Proposition 1 — they can make more profit if they pass the cost of basic public services onto everyday Alaskans.

It’s no surprise the oil industry pays their fancy public relations firms lots of money to confuse Alaskans. To date, these big oil interests have spent over $20 million to distort the truth and buy your vote. They know it makes perfect business sense to spend millions fighting a ballot measure if they can make billions by fooling you.

Here’s a good example: Sen. Micciche is the primary architect behind the current “per barrel tax credit,” which is just an elusive phrase for what it really is — a massive corporate handout. These companies had never gotten — and never needed — this giant subsidy before. Now they get to skim off an extra $8 for each barrel they pump. Do the math: $8 times 500,000 barrels per day times 365 days per year = A LOT of corporate welfare.

The big oil companies keep moving the ball, because they don’t want us to know the truth. And the truth is that these giant corporations can and should pay their fair share to Alaskans so we can get a fair return on our oil wealth and pay for education and veterans services and ferries and the PFD.

It’s time for Alaskans to stop playing ball with the oil industry, and to take our obligation to our kids and our elders seriously. Vote “yes” on Proposition 1 for a strong Alaska.

Paul Seaton served in the Alaska House of Representatives for 16 years. He was co-chair of the House Resources and Finance Committees during consideration of various oil tax proposals. Bob Shavelson is a resident of Homer.

• By Paul Seaton and Bob Shavelson

Paul Seaton (courtesy photo)

Paul Seaton (courtesy photo)

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