Big Oil’s Attack Dogs, Fueling Our Addiction

Our guest bloggers are Daniel J. Weiss, a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Sam Schiller.

On Friday, President Bush, noting that “demand is outstripping supply,” went on the attack about rising gas prices:

You know, these members of Congress, particularly the Democratic leadership, must address this issue before they go home for this upcoming August break. They have a responsibility to explain to their constituents why we should not be drilling for more oil here in America to take the pressure off of gasoline prices.

Bush is peddling drill-drill-drill snake oil. In fact, his conservative allies clamoring for the Big Oil agenda of drilling without borders today are the same ones that blocked measures to reduce gasoline demand during the last decade while collecting exorbitant Big Oil contributions. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) hypocritically accuses liberals of “inaction” and “callous indifference as American families and small businesses struggle with $4 per gallon gasoline.” Boehner and his cohorts in the House of Representatives callously did Big Oil’s bidding by blocking badly overdue improvements in fuel economy for decades until they — and Bush’s veto threats — were overwhelmed in 2007.

Oil Contributions and CAFE votes

During this decade alone, there have been four bipartisan efforts to modestly raise fuel economy standards, save oil, and reduce gasoline costs. Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ed Markey (D-MA) offered various fuel economy amendments to energy bills in 2001, 2003, and 2005. New congressional leadership in 2007 defeated conservative opposition, passing into law increased fuel economy standards to 35 mpg by 2020, the first increase in 32 years.

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) opposed all four fuel economy provisions, and suggested as recently as 2007 that raising fuel economy standards would “wreck America’s economy.” In 2004, then-House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-TX) said, “We need a comprehensive energy bill because gasoline prices are up, coal prices are up, natural gas prices are up, crude imports are up, refined product imports are up.” Yet he voted against reducing motor vehicle oil consumption every time.

The defeat of fuel economy amendments in 2001, 2003, and 2005 helped keep U.S. oil consumption high and gave the big five oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell — record profits. The representatives who opposed fuel economy amendments every time were well rewarded with campaign contributions from the oil industry. They received an average of $161,686 in campaign contributions from big oil. Representatives who supported cutting oil demand by improving fuel economy only received an average of $31,834 in big oil contributions—one dollar for every five received by opponents.

With oil prices at $140 per barrel and climbing, the Bush administration must swiftly implement the new fuel economy standards, and require cars to average 35 miles per gallon years before the 2020 deadline. Meanwhile, Congress must invest in clean alternative fuels, mass transit, and hyperefficient vehicles to dramatically end America’s oil addiction, reduce consumption, save money, and increase national security.

Read the extended version of this post at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

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