Some worry that the nation is on a path that would lead the oil and gas industry to collapse.
As oil prices have dropped, the incoming Obama Administration has seen less pressure to take action in the energy sector. In just six months, analysts say the public's demands for the government to intervene have nearly disappeared.
"Some of the ideas that were being discussed have already been discarded, specifically a windfall profits tax," says Barbara Shook, the Houston Bureau Chief for the Energy Intelligence Group. "We no longer have any windfall profits to tax."
Other analysts say they worry that the Obama Administration could make decisions that will lead to a collapse of the oil industry similar to one in the 1980's.
"Policy decisions about energy are going to be very difficult," says Brian Habacivich, the Senior Vice President for Research at Fellon-McCord and Associates. "People don't understand that wind and solar are very high cost alternatives to coal and nuclear. As long as it's not really biting them in the pocketbook right now, they're not really tuned in."
Habacivich says the Energy Security Act of 1980 aimed to wean the United States off of foreign oil following the embargoes of the 1970's. Instead, he says the act did nothing to advance technology and contributed to oil prices dropping to less than $10 a barrel in 1986.
Habacivich also believes Barack Obama will push for "cap and trade" legislation.
"Coal and oil and natural gas are likely to be rationed under this administration's policies," Habacivich adds.
If oil prices continue to hover near $40 in 2009, Shook expects companies to slow down their expansion.
"We will have some layoffs, cutbacks in personnel, and we will have some reduced hiring," she says.
Shook does believe that oil companies learned from the collapse in the 1980's. She says the companies are already preparing to move oil and natural gas more quickly once the economy improves and demand increases.
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