Remember the farmer whose concerns about regulations hampering his ability to earn a living President Obama dismissed?
Well, I wonder what the president would say to Exxon shareholders, many of whom are ordinary folks who have taken the risk to inest their money in a company that creates jobs and profits, who might harbor worries about the effect on their lives of a dust-up between the government and the oil company?
There are millions upon millions of small investors who own Exxon stock. There is a good reason for this: Even in this rotten economy that has battered its stock price, Exxon pays a nice dividend of $7.72 per share. This makes it a good bet for retired people who depend on the portfolio they have been able to build over their working lives.
Guess, therefore, which side I pulling for in this dispute:
Exxon Mobil Corp. is fighting with the U.S. government to keep control of one of its biggest oil discoveries ever, in a showdown where billions of dollars hang in the balance for both sides….
The Texas behemoth faces the sobering prospect that it may have made the largest discovery ever in the Gulf of Mexico only to lose it….
The Department of the Interior is trying to claim a Gulf of Mexico oilfield discovered by Exxon on the grounds that the company did not properly file for an extension of its lease on the oil field. A Norwegian oil company has a 50 percent interest in the lease, known as the Julia field. It has also filed suit in a federal court in Louisiana.
Apparently, the Interior Department’s itch to regulate is behind the feud:
A spokeswoman for the Interior Department said, “Our priority remains the safe development of the nation’s offshore energy resources, which is why we continue to approve extensions that meet regulatory standards.”
The Interior Department, which oversees offshore oil development and collects royalties, has been trying to show that it has become a tougher, but still fair, regulator of the Gulf of Mexico’s oil riches.
I think the administration’s actions in this dispute have relevance for the 2012 presidential race: The Obama administration has charged that the reason Texas is prosperous is not that Gov. Rick Perry knows how to create jobs. The state’s thriving economy, th administration claims, is the result more of other factors, including the state’s thriving oil industry. I previously posed a question: Would the Lone Star state have created so many new jobs if President Barack Obama were governor of Texas?
I think this duel with Exxon pretty much answers that question.
If the president really wants something effective in his TBA jobs program, how about letting Exxon extend its lease on the Julia field? That is a great way to create jobs, Mr. President. Exxon also creates income for shareholders large and small (disclaimer: I have a smidgen of Exxon stock).
Exxon may have made a technical error in failing to renew the lease, but the government should be jumping at the chance to have this behemoth get busy and develop that field. This could be a small boon for a stagnant economy.