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The Rich Get Richer

May 4, 2011 – It used to be, if someone called you “brazen,” it was an insult. It meant you went ahead and did bad things without any regard to what others thought of you. Because it described what, at the time, was uncommon behavior, it was held up to children for illustrative purposes, the gist of which was “don’t ever let me catch you doing” whatever was being described as brazen. Lots of things have changed since those innocent days: it’s become more acceptable to “act out;” to share parts of our lives with relative strangers that used to remain strictly private; to bend the rules, then bend them a little more. When I lived in the South, I heard it said you ”shouldn’t never do nothin’ you wouldn’t want yer mommy ner yer daddy to know about.” It was a rule that made a lot of sense.
I guess by now we all know that mommies and daddies have become a lot more permissive. At least the mommies and daddies of oil industry executives have. Otherwise, those executives wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to accept billions of dollars in subsidies while making $900 billion in profits over the last ten years. Who made such colossal profits, you may ask. I’m glad you did: BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell raked in all that dough, at the same time they were accepting $4 billion a year in subsidies from the federal government - every year of that decade.
To their credit, the House of Representatives has already voted three times THIS YEAR to end the subsidies, only to be beaten back by oil industry lobbyists. Now that President Obama has joined their efforts, with Senate Majority Leader Reid signaling his readiness to hold a vote on the matter, there is no reason for this misdirected largesse to continue one minute longer. Here’s why:
The subsidies have nothing at all to do with the price of gas. What’s driving the price of gas these days is its decreased accessibility. With peak oil having been reached in 2006, the gas we put in our cars now costs a lot more than gas used to. Not all oil is created equal; there’s the easy-to-get stuff (what we used to refine and then put in our cars), and there’s the harder-to-get stuff, of which the worst-case example is the so-called tar sands found in Canada. By the time it’s been sufficiently processed so that it can be put into our cars, refining has burned up almost as much energy as we’ll get from the gas when we drive our cars.
The oil industry claims thousands of jobs will disappear without the subsidies. What they fail to share with consumers is that the renewable energy industry, which is far more labor intensive, will create more jobs than drilling and mining combined.
The oil industry further claims that cutting subsidies will cost the government tax revenue. When, oh when, will the oil industry become a Grown Up Industry, one that no longer needs help? Corporate welfare is just not something the United States can afford anymore.
While the oil companies continue to promote the idea of drilling for oil in the United States in order to ensure American energy security, the truth is that any oil they bring to the surface is sold to a global market. The companies are multinational, and so are their customers.
Finally, laughably, the conventional energy industry wants us to believe that renewable energy is dependent upon them for funds because they have invested in it so heavily. According to a Senate report, it turns out that “green investment,” by oil industry definition, includes refining heavier sources of petroleum! Only 1% of their investments is directed to what you and I know as renewable energy.
With thanks to the League of Conservation Voters and Transition Voice.


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