Friday, September 12, 2008

Energy Policy, Republican Style

Thanks to the New York Times and Senator Ron Wyden, we can begin to understand some of the reasoning behind the Repub Party's lust for "drill, baby, drill."

The Times reports on 9/10/08 on the investigation by Inspector General Earl S. Devaney of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which sells oil and gas on the open market in its decade-long royalty-in-kind program. The Service is modeled to operate like a private sector energy company and the program's employees, reporter Charlie Savage writes, are "subject to government ethics rules, such as restrictions on taking of gifts from people and companies with whom they conduct official business."

Except that it has developed "a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity." Three reports were delivered to Congress on Tuesday and according to The Times, the inspector general says that

eight officials in the royalty program accepted gifts from energy companies whose value exceeded limits set by ethics rules — including golf, ski and paintball outings; meals and drinks; and tickets to a Toby Keith concert, a Houston Texans football game and a Colorado Rockies baseball game.

The investigation also concluded that several of the officials “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.”

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) accused the Minerals Management Service of “a pattern of abuses and mismanagement.” He noted that taxpayers are harmed because of the impact upon revenues from the program. And Bush's Interior Department is going after consumers, as Wyden had on September 2 complained to Interior Department Secretary Samuel Bodman. His letter read in part:

On June 3, 2008 and July 30, 2008 respectively, your Department issued and affirmed an order pursuant to Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act that will allow two major integrated oil companies – ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil – to export 98.1 billion cubic feet of Alaskan natural gas to Japan and other Pacific Rim countries. This order, which will allow the export of as much natural gas as is used by 1.4 million American families in a year, comes at a time when the President had demanded that the moratoria on oil and gas drilling along our environmentally-sensitive coastal areas be lifted and Americans are being warned that their winter heating bills are going to be dramatically higher. The Administration is trying to have it both ways – arguing that we need to drill everywhere because we don’t have adequate energy supplies, while finding that we have so much energy that big oil companies can export it overseas and keep prices here at home higher than they would otherwise be.

So the Repubs complain that the (Democratic) Congress is preventing oil companies from expanding supplies. Meanwhile, the Bush Interior Department is overseeing an energy operation apparently riddled by corruption- and encouraging export of natural gas abroad rather than to the continental United States. It may be discouraging, but really not surprising, to learn that private profit is a higher priority than the public interest for the Bush-McCain crowd.

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