Given the importance of domestic exploration and refining Oklahoma’s economy, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission recently (April 16, 2009) wrote a letter to President Obama contending that the President’s energy tax increases in his proposed federal budget “would have disastrous effects on Oklahoma’s efforts to educate its children, clean its environment, and create jobs.”

The letter makes several specific arguments and Oklahoma’s likely voters are largely in agreement with three of four major points of the letter.

“Oklahoma is an energy exporting state. Any federal efforts to curb that industry will be met skeptically by our public.  The experience of the previous bust looms large even for those who were employed in energy.  The reality is that we are all in the energy sector, and this exposure, despite our economic diversification, colors the perceptions of the public.” explains Dr. Keith Gaddie, SoonerPoll Vice President.

SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study via telephone of 318 likely voters in Oklahoma chosen at random April 23-26, 2009. The study has a margin of error of ± 5.5%.

SoonerPoll followed up on the recent letter to President Obama from the Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners:

  • 59.1% agree that such new taxes on oil and natural gas will reduce investment in new oil and natural gas products;
  • 56.6% agree that such new taxes will hinder the state’s ability to cleanup abandoned oil and natural gas drilling sites;
  • 51.6% agree that attempts to repeal accounting tax deductions afforded the American oil and natural gas industry will halt or strictly curtail drilling activities in the state;
  • 43.4% agree that if the proposed tax increases are adopted, Oklahoma will suffer not just a recession, but will return to economic depression.

More conservative voters were more prone to agree that the bill will reduce investment in new oil and natural gas products in Oklahoma. Respondents in Oklahoma City (60.4%) were more concerned about the taxes curtailing drilling activities, compared to respondents in Tulsa (49.4%) or the rest of the state (45.2%).

“The greater concern we see in Oklahoma City is a result of the metro reemerging as a significant energy player. In the recent years of Devon Energy, Chesapeake and SandRidge Energy growth, it used to be that OKC was the cattle capital. Now Oklahoma City is also an energy capital, more so than ever before. Despite our more diversified economy compared to the 1980’s, we live and die with oil and natural gas.” describes Gaddie.

“The lessened sensitivity to an enduring economic downturn arising from new taxes likely reflects the lessened direct employment in energy by Oklahomans.  It also reflects the relatively strong health of the local economy compared to the recent past of the 1990s.”

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