I've been in a lengthy discussion with a blog by William and Mary's American Constitution Society concerning the vices and virtues of a windfall tax for oil companies. Firms could assuage this tax, their post goes, as they shift money to developing sources of alternative fuel.
The author--Darren--notes that oil companies have a tremendous incentive to create the Next Energy Source but paradoxically concludes we should use the government to force them to do just that. I completely agree with Darren on his first point, thus I see little reason for the conclusion. As Julian Simon pointed out, increasing prices attract entrepreneurs and investors to employ or invent substitutes and stretch current technology.
No one knows how long it will take the new technology to surface, let alone become feasible. Our dynamic economy needs to be able to use a vast array of options to satisfy humanity's long and short term goals. One unintended consequence this tax could encourage too much development in an unrealized technology, forgoing an expanse in oil production now. At best Darren's idea does nothing. At worse, it sabotages the present and, in doing so, delays the future.