Following a contentious Congressional hearing on record gas prices this week in which oil executives defended their record profits by saying they “are working darned hard,” apologists for the oil industry are attempting to convince people not to invest in a sustainable future.
Mark Davis, substituting for Rush Limbaugh on the Limbaugh radio show, claimed Congressman Ed Markey was “raping these guys rhetorically” at an “obscene” hearing. Davis defends the oil industry:
And all these guys are trying to do is get us more oil because we like oil. Everybody wants to run our cars on baby shampoo or cornpone or whatever. Well, if, if a car’s developed that works the same way, runs the same way, has the same horsepower then maybe we’ll think about that. Until then alternative fuels will remain a fringe pursuit.
That’s not quite “all these guys are trying to do.” The oil industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Congress, front groups, and public relations campaigns to block any policies that would lessen our reliance on oil or worse, reduce their tax breaks and government subsidies.
Glenn Beck used his CNN soapbox to tell America, “Be thankful for big oil,” and offered an almost entirely incoherent defense of the companies, admitting that they “make a lot of cash” but that they “get ambulances to the hospital” because of capitalism’s incentives. In Beck’s world, oil companies don’t just need record profits and multi-billion-dollar tax breaks — they should also be getting more gratitude from the American people. He goes on to attack the government:
I’ve yet to see what our government does for us with their rather large chunk of each gallon of gas we buy, and I’ve yet to see them offer to return it or suggest a gas-tax-windfall-tax-tax.
Beck’s inability to “see what our government does for us” is simply evidence of willful blindness. Our government plows all revenues from the federal gas tax into highway and mass transit maintenance and development. And “their rather large chunk” in fact isn’t– as the price of crude oil has skyrocketed but the federal gas tax has remained unchanged, the amount of a dollar of gas that goes to the government has plummeted from 32 cents in 2000 to 13 cents today.
American Petroleum Institute president and CEO Red Cavaney used a USA Today column to tell Americans: “Don’t blame oil companies.” Cavaney also argues that the Democratic plan to roll back billions in oil-company tax breaks to pay for renewable energy incentives that are under the threat of expiring this year, putting “$19 billion of investment and 116,000 jobs in the US at risk.” This plan has been filibustered repeatedly in the Senate by Big Oil’s allies, most recently by a single vote:
These taxes would move us in the wrong direction by taking away income that could be reinvested in more oil and gas.
Caveney is literally arguing that it is the “wrong direction” to take money from oil and gas development and give it to people willing to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency — reducing our addiction to fossil fuels. The only ones for whom that is the wrong direction are the oil companies themselves, who seem determined to drill faster to climate catastrophe.