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
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
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
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