The new Democratic leaders in Congress may need a few days to get their governing legs, but they might ideally reach across the aisle and join hands with the Republicans to stop, once and for all, our government's ongoing and abject abdication to the oil industry.
The new Congress could strike a powerful first blow by spearheading a bipartisan effort to set up a National Oil Trust. It would be empowered to develop and manage, with pointed environmental sensitivity, the enormous, still-untapped energy reserves located on our public lands and underneath the oceans just off our continental shelf. Alone, The Western oil shale reserves are the largest in the world and as set forth in my post Energy Independence, Our Oil Shale Deposits, Making OPEC Obsolete it is time for them to be developed in order to wean ourselves away from our dependency on oil imports from unstable and exploitive suppliers.
The National Oil Trust could be modeled after Norway's Petroleum Directorate whose stated objective is to contribute and create the greatest public values for Norwegian Society from Norway's oil and gas deposits. The Norwegian government also created a national oil company, Statoil, whose prime function was the marketing and distribution of the Norwegian States' direct interest in each production operation. The Norwegian State owns 70 percent share interest in Satoil. The viability of this arrangement can best be attested by the fact that among the 20 largest shareholders of the remaining 30 percent are such decidedly 'unsocialist' entities as JPMorgan Chase, Mellon Bank, Citigroup Global Markets, State Street Bank and Trust, Fidelity Funds Europe. Profits from oil and gas operations accrue to the Norwegian Government's Pension Fund and is invested in conservative bonds and stocks. Were we to have a similar arrangement the trust could and should be mandated to direct its revenues from these investments toward developing alternative energy sources and to expand mass transportation thereby becoming a cornerstone of a long term program toward breaking our environmentally critical addiction to fossil fuels.
Why a trust? So that we can stop the giveaway to the oil and gas companies and start developing our national patrimony for the good of all Americans. As I have noted more than once (for starters, see my post, The Oil Gas on Federal Lands Belong to Us!, 3/24/06, and, more recently, The Interior Department Plays Patsy to The Oil and Gas Industry on 11/03/06), the energy companies currently pay pitifully small royalties to the federal government for the privilege of extracting and profiting enormously from resources that rightfully belong to the public. And who provides those enormous profits? We consumers do, when we are forced to buy back our oil and gas in the form of refined products like gasoline, heating oil, and diesel fuel that are priced at extortionist, monopoly derived prices (read OPEC), prices bearing little resemblance to the companies' cost of production. In other words, the American public is getting fleeced at both ends of the pump.
Congress should also militate for the restructuring of the Interior Department to ensure that oil industry interests don't continue to blatantly trump those of the nation as a whole. Right now, between the up-front royalty rollbacks, depletion allowances on oil and gas already pumped, tax-depreciation credits, and shockingly weak oversight, the energy producers are profiteering with the concurrence of an oil lobby addled government, all at our expense. The energy industry needs pay its fair share, monies that could better be used to help liberate us from our addiction through a myriad of alternative energy programs.
A National Oil Trust would go a long way to remedy these distortions. Given the new Congressional slate, the time for action is Now!