Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Waist Deep in Big Oil

The Nation reports:
The mid-November revelation in the Washington Post that as early as February 2001 senior executives of at least four of the country's biggest oil companies met with aides to Vice President Cheney has reopened the debate over Big Oil's influence on the Bush Administration's energy policy. The immediate controversy concerns whether executives of ExxonMobil, Conoco, Shell and BP America misled the Senate Energy and Commerce committees when they denied knowledge of the meetings in testimony on November 9. The leaked documents confirm that these meetings in fact took place, but because Republican chair Ted Stevens declined to oblige the executives to testify under oath--which committee Democrats strongly protested at the time--they cannot be charged with perjury. (They could, however, be charged with making false or fraudulent statements to Congress.)

The executives' evasive answers have renewed questions about the functioning of the secretive White House Energy Task Force, especially its unwillingness to draft policies that transcend the interests of Big Oil. The focus on industry profits and prevarication, although it's important, misses a much more important reason for the Bush Administration's desperate attempts to keep documents related to the task force secret. In a word: Iraq.