The Most Obscene Profits in American History
It was, to use Yogi Berra's phrase-déjà vu all over again. George
W. Bush's energy program in his State of the Union speech echoed the many similar
promises made by his presidential predecessors going back to Ronald Reagan.
Promises that were either vague or if specific, distant from realization. What
irony to pledge to become energy independent, as we become ever more dependent
on imported oil-imports are now reaching 60 percent of total US oil consumption.
"America is addicted to oil," exclaimed the President. No one more
so than the President himself, a former oil industry executive who appointed
over three dozen oil men like himself to high posts in his Administration-a
regime marinated in oil.
The results have been, to say the least, oily. Talk as he has started to do
about renewable forms of energy, his actions speak louder. Last year, Bush's
energy bill passed with billions of dollars in new subsidies for gas and oil,
as if a staggering price for $60 or $70 a barrel is not enough to provide incentives
to profit-glutted oil companies to produce.
Before reaching his desk, Bush made sure that some of the legislation's provisions
were cut out. The renewable portfolio standard that was to require electric
companies to obtain a certain percentage of their fuel from renewable sources
was dropped. Bush also rejected an "oil savings amendment" to reduce
oil use. And, of course, he adamantly refused to support any higher federal
standards for motor vehicle fuel efficiency which has reached its lowest dismal
level since 1980. Going backward into the future-GM style!
Moreover, he never uses the onset of global warming as a reason for more fuel
efficient vehicles-even as Alaska melts down in ice and permafrost more and
more each year.
Unwilling to push the auto companies, presently subsidized by your tax dollars
in a boondoggle joint program with Uncle Sam, George W. Bush turns his back
on what specialists inside and outside the industry know. Namely, that, as MIT's
Technology Review documented in November 2002, "if it chose to, Detroit
could manufacture a 40-mpg SUV by the end of the decade." Using existing
or readily available technology, cars could go to an average of 46 mpg, that
is, from the present level of about 21 mpg.
Imagine if the auto companies started to move, during the first oil crises
in the mid-Seventies. Your old vehicle would have reached the above-noted levels
of efficiency, as the then U. S. Department of Transportation predicted could
be the case.
Nice and warm in the White House, Mr. Bush did not throw his powerful lobbying
crew late last year against the pouting reduction of the already inadequate
low-income home fuel assistance program for impoverished Americans. This reduction
occurred in retaliation to the Senate's defeat of Senator Ted Stevens' (Rep.
Alaska) demand to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Drained long ago of any empathy, Bush did not even react to the stupendous
profit reports last week by the big oil companies, led by Exxon Mobil corporation's
$10.71 billion for the fourth quarter of 2005 and $36.13 billion for the entire
Mind you, Exxon did not make this profit through its own innovation or bold
marketing expertise. It received an undeserved windfall born of cartel-determined
supplies and growing demand, the customary special tax breaks, expanding taxpayer
subsidies from Washington, and the gas guzzling motor vehicles that the stubborn
auto giants deliver to the marketplace.
With his big business uber-allies mentality, Mr. Bush would not even go along
with his fellow Republican, Senator Chuck Grassley's written request last November
to the oil and gas moguls that they give 10 percent of their profits to help
low-income Americans get through a cold winter.
Americans who do not qualify for low-income assistance are finding their budgets
busted. David Harb of Redford, Michigan writes as a 58 year-old adult who stays
home to take care of his elderly mother fulltime: "Regarding the prices
of oil, natural gas and home heating costs, I am shocked, sickened & disgusted
by their continually escalating utility bills that have gone through the roof
and are driving the citizens, voters, taxpayers and homeowners of this state
into bankruptcy and the poorhouse."
There needs to be a consumer uprising, with each gouged citizen pouring their
demands on their members of Congress, on talk radio shows, newspaper editors
and talking it up in their neighborhood. Nothing is faster and more credible
than word of mouth between friends and relatives. At least make the oil giants
give some of it back while the winter is here.
For more information, visit www.USPIRG.org.