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ECONOMICS -
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The "N" Word: Take Back the Oil Companies!

Posted in the database on Monday, May 01st, 2006 @ 16:51:06 MST (1386 views)
by Mike Whitney    Counter Punch  

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Nationalizing the oil industry should be the central tenet of any progressive political movement. Evidence of the industry's involvement in the invasion of Iraq as well as its obvious complicity in corrupting the political system should provide ample proof that the oil giants are a clear and present danger to democracy and need to be put under state control.

In an era of oil scarcity we no longer have the luxury of allowing a handful of corporate plutocrats to decide the fate of the global economy. The industry chieftains have deliberately closed down refineries to lower production and enhance their profits. They have sluiced boatloads of cash into the political system to ensure that congress and the executive carry out their directives. Presently, there's not an inch of daylight between the Exxon boardroom and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, they both operate off the very same script.

The oil industry is the primary beneficiary of Bush's war in Iraq. Industry executives had a place at the table when Dick Cheney carved up Iraq's oil fields for future distribution among America's elite corporations. Freedom of Information requests have provided "edited documents from the Cheney Energy Policy group. One of these was a map showing lease areas where oil drilling was planned (in Iraq). Another consisted of a list of 40 oil companies from 30 nations who were slated to get permission to drill for oil in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The problem for the US and Britain was that their oil companies were absent from this list of those who were to get concessions..The US and UK would thus be frozen out of what was clearly one of the greatest material prizes in world history." ("The CFR Debates" Lawerence Shoup; Z Magazine March 2006)

This explains why the industry backed a bumbling oil-man from Texas who showed neither interest in policy nor aptitude for leadership. Bush became the draught horse for executing an agenda that would replace diminishing Saudi reserves with the second largest supplies in the world, and then, conveniently remove France and Russia from the list of competitors.

2,400 American servicemen and 100,000 Iraqis have now sacrificed their lives on the altar of corporate profiteering. Bush has spread his energy war from Central Asia to the Middle East; increasing the incidents of terrorism by 4 fold. The American middle class is being crushed by soaring gas prices and government malfeasance while well-heeled oil moguls trundle off to the bank with the largest profits in history.

Isn't it time we rethought the economic system?

Anyone who has watched the futures market knows that the present system is doomed. Nowadays, any disgruntled partisan with a Kalashnikov can take out a pipeline and send oil prices skyrocketing. Bush has only aggravated this problem by saber rattling at Iran. His rhetoric has caused an erosion of confidence in the market and sent prices at the pump soaring. And, this is only the beginning.

The administration is determined to take its war wherever oil is obtainable; inciting a global resistance that could persist throughout the century. This seems to be the war that Bush and Cheney covet, although their objectives are cleverly concealed behind the facade of the war on terror.

How can the market survive this type of volatility; especially when Uncle Sam is creating thousands of new terrorists with every misguided invasion?

The new State Dept report confirms that resistance to America's foreign policy is increasing violence exponentially. Bush's "smash and grab" neoliberalism is transforming the world into a free-fire zone putting lives and vital resources at risk.

The system is hopelessly broken and needs "democratizing" so that energy can be distributed evenhandedly according to one's basic needs.

If everyone needs access to energy to maintain a minimal standard of living, then we should recognize oil as a basic human right like water or food. There should be regulating-bodies to ensure that distribution is equitable and not arbitrarily doled out to the highest bidder. There's no way that the current system can make this adjustment when the availability of cheap energy is quickly disappearing.

We are facing a future of diminishing supplies and growing demands. We can either cooperate on a national and international level; creating the appropriate institutions for fair distribution, or follow the "Bush model" of military intervention and unrelenting turmoil.

The belief that the market's "invisible hand" will guide us safely to the other shore is nonsense. There is no "free market" in the oil business; it's a complete myth. Oil extraction in Iraq is conducted at gunpoint, the ultimate form of coercion. Each barrel leaving the country has been stolen through military force.

Is this our window into the future or is cooperation possible?

The world's main source of energy should not be entrusted to corporate oligarchs whose only interest is padding the bottom line. The world's resources are not the sole province of the "highest bidder".

We need an entirely new approach to energy policy; a vision that anticipates dwindling supplies, conservation, and the threat of climate change. The path ahead doesn't have to be littered with the corpses of those who fought to defend their countries from exploitation. There's another way.

It is possible for people and nations to work together for the common good. And, after all, we only need to look at Iraq, Afghanistan and Nigeria to see the dismal alternative.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com



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