Oil and gas companies gave $1.45 million in direct contributions to Romney in 2011 and 2012, according to campaign contribution watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics’s OpenSecrets.org website, making him by far the top recipient from those firms. Obama came in ninth, netting about $250,000 from those companies.
Those figures did not include donations to any political action committees linked to the candidates.
Adam Sieminski, head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, promptly reminded West that the natural-gas industry needed a $1 per million BTU (British thermal units) subsidy to get it off the ground when prices were low.
“The independents who were responsible for the breakthroughs in natural-gas fracturing were helped tremendously by a federal subsidy on natural-gas production,” Sieminski said. “You might even look at that as one of the better federal policies.”
West pointed to Obama’s efforts to repeal $4 billion worth of annual oil subsidies as proof of the president’s animosity toward the oil industry. Despite the contradiction presented by opposing the removal of subsidies, West contended that Romney would be a greater free market advocate.
Obama “really doesn’t like the oil industry, and I think that’s fair to say,” West said.
Michael Levi, program director on energy security and climate change with the Council on Foreign Relations, argued oil firms were picking a fight over an insignificant amount of money in an industry in which the top five companies earned more than $137 billion in profits in 2011.
“We are talking about $4 billion in an industry that makes far more than that,” Levi said.
West noted that “the federal government has had no role” in the domestic natural gas boom that has occurred largely on private land. He also criticized Obama’s reluctance to open federal lands to energy exploration.
John Hofmeister, founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy and a former president of Shell Oil Co., said the Obama administration has decided to be a “disabler” of markets.
“I think if I’m heading an American oil company looking at use of capital in America, I would be very careful, I would be selective. And I think that’s what we’re seeing,” Hofmeister said.