Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oil's Swell

I've said many times that the SCOTUS's "Citizens United" decision was the worst thing that ever happened to American democracy, allowing corporations to pump unlimited money into elections. And the oil industry has decided to start buying their candidates directly:

The American Petroleum Institute, the Big Oil industry’s chief lobbying organization, will start directly backing political candidates in the second quarter of this year. API, whose membership includes oil giants like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, already spends tens of millions of dollars every year on lobbying, advertisements and Astroturf campaigns to support the the oil industry agenda. As CAP’s Dan Weiss wrote, API “wants to drill in fragile, sensitive places, keep government tax breaks, expand offshore drilling without reforms, and block global warming pollution reduction requirements.”

“This is adding one more tool to our toolkit,” Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, told Bloomberg News. “At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate.” As Bloomberg pointed out, oil-supported political action committees like the Independent Petroleum Association of America overwhelmingly donate to Republican candidates.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, API spent $6.7 million on lobbying alone last year, after clearing $7 million in 2009. In 2010, API was the seventh most prolific spender in the oil and gas industry, following ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Koch Industries and BP.

API’s turn toward direct political donations is doubly problematic because, in addition to acting as the industry’s chief lobbyists, the institute runs technical committees that set standards for the oil industry. In its official report, the commission that investigated the BP oil spill found that API was too “compromised” to be setting industry standards. “Because they would make oil and gas industry operations potentially more costly, API regularly resists agency rulemakings that government regulators believe would make those operations safer, and API favors rulemaking that promotes industry autonomy from government oversight,” the commission found. And this was before API decided to begin directly supporting candidates!

(please, go read the entire article)

The oil industry has had an incredible amount of influence on our government for many decades, and certainly has a number of members of congress in their control already. But they've decided they want more. I had wondered how the industry would react to Obama's proposed cuts to subsidies and increased alternative energy funding, and now we know their response: buy more politicians.

I'm sure you've all seen yesterday's 'big news' that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got punked into a phone call that he thought was from energy magnate David Koch. Embarrassing? Maybe; but is anyone really surprised? I'm willing to bet that David Koch has a long list of politicians that he can call up who are all too willing to do his bidding. He and his cronies have decided that they need to buy the rest of the seats to ensure that they can dictate policies.

The simple fact is that we're already screwed by our oil dependence. Our entire economy (especially food and transportation) swings with every change in the price of a barrel of crude. Just look at the price of gas in response to the uprising in Libya. And of course, the environmental costs of climate change. But the very biggest threat is the very real "peak oil" problem. We're pretty much done using up all the cheap, easy to reach oil reserves. Our country desperately needs to move away from a fossil fuel based economy, but that will require government action. And those who profit most from the status quo are determined to prevent any action.

Bow down before your masters.


Fearguth said...

I would bow down, P, but I'm having trouble with my 'prostrate gland'.

Anonymous said...

good post, but i think peak politics in the mideast, peak us hegemony and peak US dollar is much more likely to diminish US oil consumption.