Take Back the Oil Companies
By Mike Whitney
-- -- Nationalizing the oil industry should be the central
tenet of any progressive political movement. Evidence of the
industry’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq as well as its
obvious complicity in corrupting the political system should
provide ample proof that the oil giants are a clear and present
danger to democracy and need to be put under state control.
In an era of oil scarcity we no longer have the luxury of
allowing a handful of corporate plutocrats to decide the fate of
the global economy. The industry chieftains have deliberately
closed down refineries to lower production and enhance their
profits. They have sluiced boatloads of cash into the political
system to ensure that congress and the executive carry out their
directives. Presently, there’s not an inch of daylight between
the Exxon boardroom and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, they both operate
off the very same script.
The oil industry is the primary beneficiary of Bush’s war in
Iraq. Industry executives had a place at the table when Dick
Cheney carved up Iraq’s oil fields for future distribution among
America’s elite corporations. Freedom of Information requests
have provided “edited documents from the Cheney Energy Policy
group. One of these was a map showing lease areas where oil
drilling was planned (in Iraq). Another consisted of a list of
40 oil companies from 30 nations who were slated to get
permission to drill for oil in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The
problem for the US and Britain was that their oil companies were
absent from this list of those who were to get concessions….The
US and UK would thus be frozen out of what was clearly one of
the greatest material prizes in world history.” (“The CFR
Debates” Lawerence Shoup; Z Magazine March 2006)
This explains why the industry backed a bumbling oil-man from
Texas who showed neither interest in policy nor aptitude for
leadership. Bush became the draught horse for executing an
agenda that would replace diminishing Saudi reserves with the
second largest supplies in the world, and then, conveniently
remove France and Russia from the list of competitors.
2,400 American servicemen and 100,000 Iraqis have now sacrificed
their lives on the altar of corporate profiteering. Bush has
spread his energy war from Central Asia to the Middle East;
increasing the incidents of terrorism by 4 fold. The American
middle class is being crushed by soaring gas prices and
government malfeasance while well-heeled oil moguls trundle off
to the bank with the largest profits in history.
Isn’t it time we rethought the economic system?
Anyone who has watched the futures market knows that the present
system is doomed. Nowadays, any disgruntled partisan with a
Kalashnikov can take out a pipeline and send oil prices
skyrocketing. Bush has only aggravated this problem by saber
rattling at Iran. His rhetoric has caused an erosion of
confidence in the market and sent prices at the pump soaring.
And, this is only the beginning.
The administration is determined to take its war wherever oil is
obtainable; inciting a global resistance that could persist
throughout the century. This seems to be the war that Bush and
Cheney covet, although their objectives are cleverly concealed
behind the facade of the war on terror.
How can the market survive this type of volatility; especially
when Uncle Sam is creating thousands of new terrorists with
every misguided invasion?
The new State Dept report confirms that resistance to America’s
foreign policy is increasing violence exponentially. Bush’s
“smash and grab” neoliberalism is transforming the world into a
free-fire zone putting lives and vital resources at risk.
The system is hopelessly broken and needs “democratizing” so
that energy can be distributed evenhandedly according to one’s
If everyone needs access to energy to maintain a minimal
standard of living, then we should recognize oil as a basic
human right like water or food. There should be
regulating-bodies to ensure that distribution is equitable and
not arbitrarily doled out to the highest bidder. There’s no way
that the current system can make this adjustment when the
availability of cheap energy is quickly disappearing.
We are facing a future of diminishing supplies and growing
demands. We can either cooperate on a national and international
level; creating the appropriate institutions for fair
distribution, or follow the “Bush model” of military
intervention and unrelenting turmoil.
The belief that the market’s “invisible hand” will guide us
safely to the other shore is nonsense. There is no “free market”
in the oil business; it’s a complete myth. Oil extraction in
Iraq is conducted at gunpoint, the ultimate form of coercion.
Each barrel leaving the country has been stolen through military
Is this our window into the future or is cooperation possible?
The world’s main source of energy should not be entrusted to
corporate oligarchs whose only interest is padding the bottom
line. The world’s resources are not the sole province of the
We need an entirely new approach to energy policy; a vision that
anticipates dwindling supplies, conservation, and the threat of
climate change. The path ahead doesn’t have to be littered with
the corpses of those who fought to defend their countries from
exploitation. There’s another way.
It is possible for people and nations to work together for the
common good. And, after all, we only need to look at Iraq,
Afghanistan and Nigeria to see the dismal alternative.
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