A recent conference on jobs and competitiveness in Washington, DC brought together business leaders who attempted to address some of the business challenges facing the nation today. As part of this, Chevron CEO John Watson spoke to reporters at CNBC, casting a harsh light on one of the disturbing ironies in federal government policy. At a time when the White House is supposed to be focusing on job creation and economic growth they are not only leaving major opportunities on the table, but actively working to avoid huge potential gains in those areas. (View the video and transcript here.)

“I was very concerned about the tax proposals in the Menendez bill that came forward that day because i never thought I would see the day when an administration and more than half the U.S. senate would propose a tax bill that actually would disadvantage 132-year-old company like Chevron relative to Russian, Chinese, French, Italian and other companies, not just outside the united states, but inside the united states of America. So we did push back on bills that were being critical trying to impose punitive taxes on our business. We can create jobs, we can play a positive role and that’s my message.”

The interviewers did a good job of bringing up other concerns being heard around the country, such as the image of “Big Oil” raking in huge profits and doing well while so many Americans are out of work and unable to share in that prosperity. Watson points out that, first, while Chevron reported profits of $19B last year, they are actively investing more than $26B this year in exploration and other industry costs in the race to stay ahead of field depletion. Further, he seemed to express some frustration with the fact that energy companies are ready – today – to provide jobs and allow more Americans to share in prosperity, but it is our own government that’s slowing down the process.

CNBC: So do you think… we’re in D.C., this is the red tape capital, are the policies or lack of policies that we’re seeing here hurting job creation at Chevron?

Watson: They are. In fact, we told a group of senators this morning, that there’s a long list of regulations that have been enacted and been in place for a long time and new ones that keep coming that are restricting our ability to create jobs. We’ve provided that list to the senators. but for our industry in particular, you know, deep water drill ship employs about 200 people directly and 1,000 indirectly. It raises revenue for the government, puts people back to work, reduces imported oil. We just want to be put in the game. We can create jobs if we’re given the opportunity.

The list of “demands” that the oil companies have in order to make this happen don’t appear to be particularly onerous.

  • Opening up acreage to development
  • Issuing permits in a timely fashion
  • Keeping in place a tax structure that allows the investment to create those jobs

This isn’t rocket science and, as Watson points out, industry leaders have now placed the list of requirements directly into the hands of the senators. The jobs and investment capital are there waiting, as he puts it, to just be put into the game. If Congress wants to improve their not particularly impressive approval ratings, this might be a pretty good place to start.