Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bush's "Energy Policy": Bring Big Texas Oil to the Arctic

by Norman Markowitz

There are a few truisms, the first spanning all history, the second history in the capitalist mode of production. The first is that reactionaries learn nothing and forget nothing and continue to do the same thing over and over again, blaming each failure on internal or external scapegoats or specific mistakes in implementation. The second is that capitalists will seize upon any crisis or disaster of their making to profit from that disaster, even if it means making the situation worse for the people and in the long run, even for them (since their long-run is inevitably short-run profit).

George Bush reflected both truisms today when he called for an end to a congressional ban on off shore oil drilling and an opening of part of the Arctic National Wild Life Preserve for oil drilling. Bush said that this was lower gas prices and protect "national security." He, the great scientist, proclaimed that" scientists have developed innovative techniques to reach arctic preserve oil with virtually no impact on the land or local wildlife." He blamed the Democrats for opposing the policy in the past and helping to create the present gas crisis. The Democrats responded quite rightly that Bush was offering no solution to the energy crisis and pandering to Big Oil, which has been first and foremost in his political machinations throughout his career.

But more is really needed. First, one should remind Bush and the Democrats for that matter that battles over off shore drilling were fought and lost in the past even before the modern environmental movement pushed back some of the worst predators. Seizing control of public lands to exploit them, both by legal and illegal means, has been a consistent theme since the rise of U.S. industrial capitalism, whether it was franchises to loot Indian reservations, phony land claims by a syndicate headed by Meyer Guggenheim and J.P. Morgan to control coal lands in Alaska (which led to the famous Ballinger-Pinchot scandal in the Taft Administration) to bribes to lease oil lands to oil companies in the Harding administration(the Teapot Dome scandal) to many others. The oil depletion allowance, giving oil companies a huge tax windfall for digging up and using more and more oil, a non renewable resource, has been a scandal for generations and a source, analysts abroad contend, of a "national energy policy" that provides a big disincentive for energy conservation and efficiency (progressives even before the contemporary environmental movement condemned it as a massive subsidy to oil companies that gave them super profits and heightened inequality).

But Bush doesn't know and doesn't care. He doesn't know the meaning of the word conservation. His attitude toward the environment isn't any different than Ronald Reagan's, who as governor of California allegedly said "when you've seen one Redwood you've seen them all," and as president of the U.S. junked the Carter administration conservation and alternative energy policies and went all out for deregulation and subsidies for Big Oil (and of course a foreign policy of disrupting the OPEC oil cartel by backing Saddam Hussein's Iraqi dictatorship in its war against Iran). Reagan also with strong support from the auto companies encouraged minivans which later became SUVs as he pushed "free market" aka subisidize and bail out capitalism as the way to create a limitless supply for a limitless demand.

Once the oil is gone, it will be gone. It has been and will continue to be infinitely more expensive to repair the damage done to the environment by corporate predators than any "trickle down" gains that have been made in jobs and prices by those predators policies. Even if one supports developing oil resources in the Arctic Wildlife preserve, no one who is not a propagandist for the administration and/or the oil companies would say that such developing could seriously produce major new sources of oil to deal with the present crisis, given the existing system, for a long time. As for Bush's comment that scientists have developed technologies that can develop oil with no ecological damage, from my understanding (and I am no scientist but neither is Bush) this is not only very wrong but a little bit like tobacco companies in the pre-1960s period citing "studies" for medical researchers they bought that smoking represented no serious health risks.

McCain announced his support for Bush and Senator Obama announced his clear opposition. Unlike Bush and McCain, Obama has come forward with serious suggestions for a national energy policy. Now would be a good time to bring them forward.

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