Today's lesson on How Washington Really Works, But Too Often Doesn't focuses upon
an outrage that affects every American - yet is being ignored as if by a vast
Federal City conspiracy.
It is an outrage that surfaced July 29, in the form of major news: Exxon Mobil,
the world's largest publicly traded oil company, announced a huge 32 percent
boost in second-quarter profits, the third-largest increase in company history.
The Big Oil bonanza came at a time when Americans are paying record-high prices
at the gas pumps.
Washington's official reaction to that maddening news has been softer than
silence. But before you search the skies for black helicopters, conspiracy theorists,
do not rule out the possibility that sheer incompetence is also afoot. Blame
here must be divided among the See-No-Evil Policymakers of this oil-friendly
administration, the Snooze-and-Lose Democratic Minority-d'Perpetuity and Myopic
Watchdogs who often function as Washington's de facto agenda-setters.
The news from Exxon Mobil established that the pattern was industry-wide. Royal
Dutch Shell, the world's third-largest oil company, reported second-quarter
profits up 34 percent. BP's (British Petroleum) were up 29 percent. ConocoPhillips,
America's third-largest, reported profits that skyrocketed by 51 percent.
But this front-page-worthy news wound up buried by the news media. The Washington
Post buried it four sections back, on page D2, under the headline: "Profit
Soars at Exxon Mobil." The report from Bloomberg News didn't really link
the fiscal ecstasy of Exxon, et al., with the fiscal misery of ordinary Americans
who fill up at the pump. Over at the New York Times, editors not only buried
the story at the bottom of page C6, but slapped on a headline ("Two Oil
Companies Report Higher Earnings") so soporific it probably lulled even
the hyper-caffeinated strategist James Carville to sleep.
What is more bizarre is that all of this news happened while Congress was enacting
an energy bill that contains barrels of boondoggles - but which a wide range
of experts agrees will do next to nothing to solve America's energy crisis.
Not short term. Not long term.
Here's why Washington's only reaction was unrequited nothingness: Absent a
Page One prodding from the agenda-setters, the reporters who cover the White
House didn't press the press secretary to explain what President Bush thought
should be done.
That could have been offset by a savvy, quick, responsible reaction in behalf
of the people by the Opposition Party that always considered itself the party
of the people. But no - today's Democratic Party leaders have lost their way.
Washington Democrats either didn't spot the Exxon-profits news or didn't perceive
that people might see it as wrong that they are paying soaring prices at the
pump while Exxon Mobil pockets soaring profits. Mainly, the Democratic opposition
didn't see a need to spotlight the problem in order to create the compelling
coalition that can forge a realistic solution.
Solutions: The only solution that can happen must be based not on politics
or grandstanding, but on conservation. And that can only be done by making it
clear that a conservation-based approach must be done as a crucial step to our
national security in an age of global terrorism.
Jay Hakes, head of the Energy Information Administration under President Bill
Clinton, warns: "We need to find a way so that we don't have a perpetual
seller's market (setting oil prices). Especially one that transfers profits
to an unstable part of the world."
And Fadel Gheit, a widely respected oil-industry analyst with Oppenheimer &
Company, cautions: "An energy policy that does not start with conservation
is doomed to fail." Asked what he'd like to see a U.S. president do if
he could just wave a magic wand and make it happen, the New York-based analyst
said: "Energy independence must start with a bipartisan approach in Washington.
The president and Congress ... must set a 20-year goal of cutting in half the
oil imports that are now at 12 million barrels a day. They must adopt a firm
year-by-year schedule and cut 1 million barrels in imports each year - if Washington
really is going to make it work."
Can Washington ever make it work? The oil analyst paused, then answered: "I'm
glad I'm not in Washington."