Matt Towery


 POINT ONE: BusinessWeek analysis of the data from the five-year period September 2000-September 2005 shows that the profitability of oil and natural gas companies (5.8 cents per dollar of sales) has been just slightly above the profitability of all industries combined. Source: 

 POINT TWO: While the media continue to blame the big oil companies for gouging U.S. motorists as they collect record-breaking profits, the windfall profits raked in by the government in the form of energy-tax revenue actually dwarfed the oil companies' jackpot.

 Source: "Gov't Gas Taxes Exceed Oil Company Profits," April 26, 2006,

 POINT THREE: Both sides of the political spectrum are participating in demagoguery. "The government should consider a tax on oil companies if they make excessive profits amid rising gasoline prices," a leading Republican senator said Sunday. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said a windfall profits tax, along with measures to stem concentration of market power among a few select oil companies, could offer eventual relief to consumers hurting at the gas pump.

 SOURCE: "Sen. Specter: Tax Oil Co. Windfall Profits," April 23, 2006,

 BETTER PLAN: Bipartisan federal support of the energy industry through the enactment of a comprehensive national energy policy that puts consumer economic needs first. Such a policy should decrease the regulatory permitting requirements for new refineries, while vigorously supporting the further exploration/exploitation of all domestic energy sources, without regard to the location of those sources.

 Bill Wavering relied on an oil company's "newsroom" releases for some of his points -- not the most objective source. But the points they offer are arguably correct.

 Bill's argument about the government's benefiting from windfall taxes more than industry does is well taken.

 The key point came with Bill's evidence that federal price controls and allocations in the 1970s failed to have the intended effect.

 Bill's winning argument aside, the fact remains that continued high gas prices without some sort of tangible response from the White House and Congress will hatch tough political consequences for public officials who are seeking re-election this fall. And that's a debate I'd win every time.

 For submitting the winning entry, Bill Wavering will receive one of my books. (That's a prize, Bill, not punishment!)

 Thanks to everyone who participated. And yes, because this column is about America's opinion, and because so many readers took the time to submit entries, from time to time, we will resume the fun with more debate contests.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery