In a press conference on March 11, 2011, President Barack Obama talked in length about his energy policy. He talked about boosting domestic oil production, energy conservation and investing in clean energy alternatives. But one thing you didn't hear was President Obama talking about the need for a tax on windfall profits for oil companies.
Two years ago, we moved this promise to Stalled when Obama failed to include it in his 2010 budget outline. It wasn't in Obama's 2011 budget. And now --even as gas prices are again on the rise -- it's not in his 2012 proposal either.
Jerry Taylor, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said there has been "no serious push" from the administration for a windfall profits tax.
Obama made the promise back in the summer of 2008, when gas prices were at record highs. The national average for a gallon of unleaded hit a record of $4.11 on July 17, 2008. Then the market collapsed, and so did talk about a windfall profits tax.
Gas prices are climbing again, but with Republicans now controlling the House, Taylor said, "there is no way he'd get that through the Congress today."
"It's the sort of thing that polls well during a campaign, but once you get elected, you conveniently let it go by the wayside," Taylor said. "If we continue to see a rise in gas prices, I'm virtually certain we'll see a lot of conversation about that," he said. But there's no chance it will pass, he said.
Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that while Obama's 2012 budget plan does include a proposal to cut or eliminate tax subsidies to oil, gas and other fossil fuel producers -- $4 billion worth, according to the Obama budget plan -- "he hasn't proposed (a windfall profits tax), that's for sure."
During the election, prices were very high, Marr said. As oil prices again climb, he said. "it becomes more in play, though I haven't heard much discussion of it." And with Republicans now controlling the House, he said. "Let's just say it couldn't happen."
This promise seemed doubtful from the start. Even before Obama took office, the promise was scrubbed from the Obama campaign's transition website. In December 2008, an aide to the Obama transition team told ABC News, "President-elect Obama announced the policy during the campaign because oil prices were above $80 per barrel. They are below that now and expected to stay below that."
At the time, we thought it was too early to call this promise dead. Gas prices are unpredictable. But even as gas prices rose again this year, Obama said nothing about a windfall profit tax. It hasn't been included in any of Obama's three budget plans to date. And we couldn't find anywhere that either Obama or anyone in his administration has raised the idea. Now, even if it were to be proposed, experts say the political calculus -- with Republicans controlling the House -- makes it almost impossible that it would become law. We rate this one a Promise Broken.