09/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Big Oil Big on Profits, Small on American Values

Sometimes I forget that the big oil companies are not really American companies. Sure, many of them are incorporated in the USA, but face it, these are multinational corporations, each bigger than many countries (economically, of course ... the 68 million acres they already have are only leased, not owned). So I really shouldn't be surprised that at a time when oil prices are so high and hard-working American families are trying to make ends meet, the big oil companies are sucking down some pretty obscene profits.

Sure, sure, I know, their profit margins are just middle of the road and they may only own 3% of the oil supply each, but as the punchline from that inverted old joke goes, "They make their profits with VOLUME!" These companies are so big that even middle of the road profits are record-setting.

But if they were really American companies, they would figure out ways to not only reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but also our dependence on OIL. Any oil.

Now I know we are a long way from being oil free, but it makes sense to me to put more emphasis into long-term non-oil energy than into long-term oil investments. If we continue to commit ourselves to burning as much oil (and fossil fuels, generally) as we can get out of the ground, we will commit global suicide.

It is really time for big oil and its conservative allies to become team players in America and fight for America's future. For example, at a time when their profits and the cost to consumers are so high, as a good American, they should voluntarily give up their government subsidies (without raising prices, of course). After all, proud Americans work together to overcome adversity.

But until the oil companies start acting like they are on the American team and help us reduce ALL oil consumption, stop committing us to long-term oil drilling in ever more places, and stop sucking at the government teat, I am glad we have lots of grassroots advocacy campaigns to keep the pressure on them, keep the message out there loud and clear. The more ways we apply pressure, the more effect we will have.

The newest campaign to pressure big oil and its conservative allies is By calling out politicians on the big oil dole, this campaign will help us get big oil off the government dole. It will help us focus our energy on reducing oil consumption with aggressive conservation (yes, including tune ups and inflating tires) and with the development of safe, clean, low-carbon, green energy. is a coalition founded by the Alaska Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife, along with coalition partners Appalachian Voices, the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, Clean Ocean Action, Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society.

The more ways we put pressure on this issue the better. In fact, the more we express our views about the issues that matter to us, the better. Especially when we are talking about such fundamental issues as energy and climate.