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Raymond J. Learsy

Raymond J. Learsy

Posted: March 27, 2008 07:57 AM

Cheney Greets King Abdullah In SaudiLand With High Fives As Oil Sails Past $100 Per Barrel


We did it! You can well imagine the high fives, the cheers and hugs as Vice President Cheney met with King Abdullah in Riyadh last week. $100-plus oil as the norm! What a triumph for King Abdullah and his protectors and cheerleaders in the current administration, spearheaded by the oil industry's factotums in the White House, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Not since President Harding and his Teapot Dome has the oil industry had such an iron grip on our government. If anything can be called a success in these bleak seven years, it is the oil industry's triumphal avalanche of riches, having orchestrated with the White Houses' blessing, one of the greatest transfers of wealth in human memory.

At long last with oil sailing past $100 a barrel and its toll on the economy clearly discernible, with consumer confidence and future expectations at the lowest level since the 1973 oil embargo, with oil company profits at record levels while the rest of the nation can barely heat their homes and truckers are losing their rigs given the price of gas, our leaders, in a phony, belated display of public concern have gone to lengths by humiliating this nation, prostrating themselves before Saudi Royalty in order to "stabilize" oil prices. This after prices have ratcheted up by more than 400% since the day this administration was sworn into office with barely a whimper from Washington along the way

What patent hypocrisy! Where was the outrage when oil prices touched
$35/$40/$50/$60/$70/$75/$80/$90/$95 a barrel, all on their watch. Hardly a murmur. Quite the contrary, deep satisfaction at the bounty being brought home to their friends and supporters in the oil industry. Cheney's Wyoming, with its gas and oil deposits was booming as never before, so what if Maine and Minnesota and Montana were freezing.

For the common citizen in this nation, the administration's energy policy has been a patent disaster. A disaster environmentally, economically and frighteningly so in terms of our national security. That said, for King Abdullah, President Bush who visited Saudiland hat in hand a month ago, and Veep Cheney's subsequent visit (Abdullah - "Mister Vice President, we have been friends for a long time") brought with them impeccable credentials were the interests of the oil world's largest producer, Saudi Arabia, their primary constituency.

The debacle was cast from the outset of this administration. In January of 2001, perhaps the first order of business for the new administration was the initiative undertaken by the vice president to draw up a new energy policy. Then the price of oil was in the low to mid $20's per barrel. The result of VP Cheney's task forces' findings are contained in a 170 page report kept under lock and key in the White House, the details of which have been kept from the public and press under the rubric of "executive privilege." The list of participants who had access to the vice president in formulating this policy paper reads like a who's who of the oil industry, including high senior officers from Exxon Mobil, Duke Energy, British Petroleum, the late Ken Lay of Enron, the American Petroleum Institute among other oil industry luminaries. According to the Washington Post, "The list of participant's names and when they met with administration officials provides a clearer picture of the task forces priorities and bolsters previous reports that the review leaned heavily on oil and gas companies and on trade groups-many of them big contributors to the Bush Campaign and the Republican party."

As an illuminating aside, VP Cheney's task force was headed by its executive director, one Andrew D. Lundquist, who has since become a lobbyist representing some of the very companies that appeared before the task force, including BP, Duke Energy and the American Petroleum Institute.

Other than a token meeting, when 13 environmental groups that were gathered in the Executive Office Building for a long delayed April 2001 session, which Cheney did not attend, virtually no voice was given to environmental organizations by his task force.

The list goes on. After the occupation of Iraq one of the first order of business of the vice president as our energy czar, was to assure that Iraq rejoined our economic nemesis, and King Abdullah's golden goose, the OPEC cartel. This after the sacrifice of American lives and treasure, to the enormous detriment of the American and world economy, but to the tremendous boon both of our oil industry and Saudi interests.

And then there is the singularly bizarre mismanagement of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve whereby oil is taken off the market to fill the reserve irrespective of rocketing prices, and releases of heating oil to the hard-pressed and freezing citizenry is denied while oil companies are being showered with tax breaks and sweetheart royalty deals and depletion allowances.

And on it goes, turning the Department of Energy into a fiefdom of the oil industry, forever siding with oil interests and the oil industry's public posture on oil related issues so that it has become almost indistinguishable from the American Petroleum Institute. All to the point where responsibility for promoting technology for easing global warming was taken from the Environmental Protection Agency which could issue regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and was turned over to the ever-pliant Department of Energy.

In the seven-plus years of its tenure this administration has done nothing of consequence to diminish our dependence on oil, both domestic nor foreign. No meaningful public policy initiatives, no meaningful mileage standards for cars, little support for alternative fuels other than ethanol and here too, maintaining a 54 cent/gallon import duty on highly efficient Brazilian ethanol.

Finally, Cheney burnishing his credentials as groveling supplicant, willfully subscribed to OPEC 'speak' during his visit, signaling his accord that the talks were "about stabilizing the market in the interests of consumer and producers alike" as if oil at $100 plus a barrel had anything to do with the interests of consumers. Then mimicking the oil patch mantra that there was very little "spare capacity," never calling attention to the 1.2 million barrels of oil a day that Saudi Arabia and their OPEC brethren have brazenly kept off the market since January of 2007, while watching the price of crude double to over $111/bbl. Not leaving bad enough alone, then giving credence to OPEC's overused canard about the value of the dollar, nary a mention that while the dollar index has fallen by near 20% since January of 2007 the price of oil has climbed by 120% over the same period.

Perhaps Mr. Cheney's title should be changed to "The Oil Industry's Regent to the American Government" instead of Vice President of the United States of America.