Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 3, 2008

Oil & Politics, Mixing Like Oil & Vinegar


Never Forget: A 2001 pit dug on the coast of Prince William Sound, revealing substantial oil remains in the sediment from the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Congress Has Big Questions for Big Oil

By H. JOSEF HEBERT – 1 day ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top executives of the five biggest American oil companies say they know consumers are feeling the pain of high gasoline prices. But at a congressional hearing, they deflected any blame, and they argued that their profits — $123 billion last year — were in line with other industries.

The lawmakers were scheduled to hear from top executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., BP America Inc., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips, which together earned about $123 billion last year because of soaring oil and gasoline prices.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., noting the hearing was being held on April Fool’s Day, said, “The biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil.” The national average cost of gasoline was hitting a record $3.29 cents a gallon.

Shell Oil Co. President John Hofmeister said in remarks prepared for the hearing that he knows “these cost increases are hitting consumers hard.” But Hofmeister and executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., BP America Inc., Chevron Corp., and ConocoPhillips rejected that their profits are extreme.

I heard tape of part of a CEO’s counter-argument on the Stephanie Miller’s radio show yesterday. They say that condsidering their tax burdens, they made no real profit at all in the U.S. last year, but actually lost money. Hey! How’s that for creative accounting?

Then I thought Wait, what are the real implications of that idea? Even if it’s partially true, it may explain why the Senate has refused to eliminate the tax breaks and other subsidies that these private companies still enjoy, in record numbers. Think about it: if Big Oil is a source of big tax revenue, and if more profit for them means more tax money for your state, or the feds, then why would a Senator want to go and bite the hand that feeds them? Why regulate a cash-cow industry that makes the government tons of cash?

Because it’s YOU AND ME paying those nearly $4 a gallon gas prices, that’s why. The oil companies are just passing their tax burdens along to us in the form of higher prices!

Here’s another fascinating tidbit from the AP article:

“Oil company profits in total dollar amounts are huge because the companies are huge and must be so to go up against giant multinational competitors in a global market”, [oil lobbyist] American Petroleum Institute President Red Cavaney said during a conference call with reporters.

Now let’s consider this. Just who are these multinational competitors of which Red speaks? (And why am I not surprised this guy has such a tacky nickname?) Um. Let’s see. There’s Shell, which is an international company with roots in Holland, but a presence here, especially in New Orleans. There’s British Petroleum (formerly Amoco… can’t get a more American name than that…). There’s Exxon Mobil, which just last week signed a partnership agreement with Malaysia’s national oil company and government, so they could drill offshore and have access to that countries substantial untapped oil resources. So… sounds pretty much like these American companies are mostly competing WITH THEMSELVES, and then complaining they have to set prices at the level that the free market determines. Except it’s not a true free market, as we can see clearly above. It’s arbitrary and subsidized and dirty and corrupt and utterly unjust.

Even sharp Republicans, like Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, are getting the picture: that something is seriously out of whack here. But still, they’re dragging their feet. So write your senators, people. Get them to fix this before we all get coated in Big Oil’s disgusting black ooze, and sucked down to the bottom of Prince William Sound along with those poor ducks and sea otters.


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