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No Wonder We're Running Out of Oil

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Just last week, oil industry execs were testifying about why oil prices and oil-company profits are, coincidentally, both so high at the moment. In addition to providing earnest assurances that there is no connection between the two peak events (just market forces at work, folks) -- the execs deftly dodged having to testify under oath. Apparently, the Republicans holding the hearing didn't want a reprise of the picture of tobacco execs taking the oath and then admitting that cigarettes do, indeed, cause cancer.

But, in one of the most stunningly bone-headed maneuvers I have ever witnessed, the oil CEOs then proceeded to lie -- utterly pointlessly and transparently. Senator Cantwell asked them whether they had participated in the 2001 Cheney Energy Task Force. In response, writes the Washington Post, "the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips all said that their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate 'to my knowledge,' and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know."

How inconvenient, then, that someone leaked documents to the Post proving that "officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated." Senator Barbara Boxer was just on MSNBC's Scarborough Country demanding that the oil companies return and testify, this time under oath, and Joe Scarborough was all but embracing her. (Which is a sign of just how far from the mainstream this Congress has veered.)

But wait a minute. The fact that the oil companies had participated in the Task Force was reported in the New York Times way back in early 2002. The Times just called these companies and asked them whether they advised Cheney, and they cheerfully said yes, they had, and the advice they had given was mostly on their public websites So the oil companies lied to Congress in 2005 about something that a) they had no reason to hide (can you imagine the CEO of Exxon Mobil saying "Yes, the Vice-President asked my opinion, but I refused to give him my advice"?) b) they had been very open about three years ago and c) was already on the public record.

Scooter Libby had a reason for lying, and he probably believed there was a good chance he wouldn't get caught. The oil industry can make neither claim. If these guys are this inept with Congress, no wonder they can't find enough oil and gas to replace what we are using. And no wonder even the Republicans in the Senate have now broken ranks with the industry and stuck a token windfall-profits tax (under another name, of course) into the budget-reconciliation bill, sending the oil patch into a frenzy.