|April 26, 2006|
Oil Price Gouging and Republican Responsibility
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Most American consumers understand that the energy policies of the Republican Party simply stink of oil money. The ties between the Bush White House and oil interests are well understood. The policies pursued by the Bush Republicans in terms of energy, environmental regulations, monopolies, taxation and foreign policy are those of the largest oil companies instead of the American consumer.
Recently on MSNBC, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn attempted to blame high oil prices on liberals and environmentalists. The attempt was pathetic and a classical Blackburn tactic. Blackburn often goes into a standard speech mode attacking liberals, environmentalists and/or Democrats or repeating some standard Republican talking points when she has no logical response to politically uncomfortable facts.
While visiting her office with a delegation of Tennessee auto workers, I saw her filibuster the members of the delegation. She quickly excused herself for a pressing meeting with a business lobby as soon as the auto workers started discussing policy issues of importance to working Americans. She refused to let these auto workers even state their concerns. Blackburn votes with the largest corporations on every importance piece of legislation and routinely against her largely middle class Congressional District.
Blackburn is a typical example of a Republican member of Congress. Her campaign coffers are stuffed with Corporate money. She always votes in the interest of the wealthiest of the wealthy. Her political story shows how Big Oil has been able to rape the American consumer with the active assistance of a Republican dominated federal government.
The largest oil companies have used their huge cash reserves to buy up other competing oil companies without the government halting these anti-competitive, monopolistic acquisitions. These huge cash reserves were not used to expand refinery expansion or to expand other forms of renewable energy sources in significant ways.
Some internal oil company documents and emails made public seem to indicate that supplies were deliberately tightened by oil industry actions in order to drive up prices and oil industry profits. The oil industry made scapegoats out of environmentalists, and Republican political allies picked-up this theme, in order to cover their apparent manipulation of markets. This market manipulation should have been illegal. Congress needs to investigate the oil industry at the highest levels. This investigation should be focused largely on refinery operations and the anti-competitive situation created by oil company consolidations.
In her MSNBC appearance, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn urged an investigation of individual gas stations. I believe Blackburn was trying to derail an investigation of Big Oil by misdirection of a Congressional investigation.
This writer believes that Democrats should push for the break-up of the largest oil companies. We need more competition in the energy sector. If criminal price-gouging can be proved, oil industry executive responsible should serve long jail terms. Excessive oil industry profits should be taxed. Blackburn publicly announced her opposition to this taxation policy. Her position is shared by almost all Republican members of Congress and the Bush White House.
Our government should stop creating foreign policy crises with major oil producing nations like Iran and Venezuela. The Bush Republican foreign policy seems to be designed to drive up international oil prices by creating crisis after crisis and constantly threatening war with oil producing nations. Greg Palast has a new book coming out soon that explores the possibility that the Bush White House pushed the United States into a war with Iraq to keep Iraqi oil off the international market. This interesting idea makes sense in that tight oil supplies permitted Bush's friends in the oil industry to make billions and billions in excess profits. These oil industry people have funded Bush Republican politicians all over the nation.
The only defense American consumers have to fight back is their votes. Every Republican Senator and Congressperson should be voted out of office in 2006 and 2008. We need to enact laws to promote competition, peace, energy conservation and renewable energy. This cannot be done with the Bush Republicans in control of our federal government.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Stephen Crockett is co-host of Democratic Talk Radio.
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