BP oil disaster is Cheneys Katrina

Bush Administration actions created unsafe circumstance, fostered oil addiction

BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Katrina — and not because BP has hired Dick Cheney’s press secretary to do damage control.

Cheney and President George W. Bush — seen above delivering his 2006 State of the Union address, where he famously stated that “America is addicted to oil” — consistently catered to Big Oil and other special interests to undercut renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives that would set the United States on a more secure clean energy path.  CAP’s Rebecca Lefton has story, which takes us back to 2001 and Cheney’s secret dirty energy task force and goes through the 2005 regulations that permit the oil and gas industry to regulate itself, to where we are today.

Under Cheney-Bush, oil companies raked in record profits while benefitting from policies they wrote for themselves. These energy policies did nothing for our national security and left consumers to pay the price at the pump and on their energy bills, which rose more than $1,100 during the Bush administration, as this figure illustrates:

gas prices and oil profits soar under the  bush administration

The following timeline outlines the administration’s direction, consequent legislative steps and missteps, and the resulting circumstances that provided advantages to Big Oil companies and led to the establishment of a regulatory system that created the BP oil disaster.


Cheney’s secret dirty energy task force crafts national energy policy. The Bush administration released the National Energy Policy Report on May 16. President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney””who gave up his title as CEO of oil and gas company Halliburton to take on his new role””with developing a new energy policy swiftly after taking office. But Cheney’s relationship with Halliburton did not end. Cheney was kept on the company’s payroll after retirement and retained around 430,000 shares of Halliburton stock.

The task force report was based on recommendations provided to Cheney from coal, oil, and nuclear companies and related trade groups””many of which were major contributors to Bush’s presidential campaign and to the Republican Party. Oil companies””including BP, the National Mining Association, and the American Petroleum Institute””secretly met with the Cheney and his staff as part of a task force to develop the country’s energy policy.

The proposal clearly represented the interests of dirty industry, including opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and encouraging oil and gas production, coal output, and the development of biofuels and nuclear power.

Only 7 of the 105 recommendations in the plan involved renewable energy. Cheney’s task force report proposed funding the development of clean energy technologies by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling and earmarking $1.2 billion of bid bonuses from leases in ANWR. The administration was clearly not serious about ending our addiction to oil. Less than two months earlier the president proposed cutting millions from renewable energy programs. The New York Times reported at the time that, “The plan does little for efficiency or renewable energy.”

Renewable energy budget cuts. Bush released the fiscal year 2002 budget on April 9 that included steep cuts for clean energy research and development: “Solar and renewable energy R&D would drop by more than a third; nuclear energy R&D would be almost halved; and energy conservation R&D would fall by nearly 25 percent.”

House energy bill includes $33.5 billion in tax breaks for dirty energy. The House of Representatives on August 2 passed the Securing America’s Future Energy Act, H.R. 4. This special-interest energy bill included $33.5 billion in tax breaks and other incentives over 10 years for the power industry aimed at increasing oil and gas exploration, developing new coal-burning technologies, and promoting nuclear energy. The bill also opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas exploration, a top Bush administration priority. The bill reflected White House priorities laid out in the 2001 plan. An amendment by Reps. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Ed Markey (D-MA) to raise fuel efficiency standards for sport utility vehicles and other light trucks was defeated.


Senate clean energy bill fails. The Senate began acting on a bill proposed in a previous Congress that would have raised fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks and included more incentives for energy conservation and alternative fuels, but no Arctic Refuge drilling. The bill passed the Senate but was not reconciled with the House bill that closely followed the Cheney dirty energy task force proposal.

Renewable energy budget cuts. President Bush released his FY 2003 budget on February 4, which devoted unprecedented funding for research and development at the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Health. It meanwhile reduced research and development funding for biomass, geothermal, and solar energy programs.


House energy bill includes $23.5 billion in tax breaks for dirty energy. The House passed another oil industry handout energy bill, H.R. 6, on March 11 that would allow oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, let companies avoid federal royalty payments on natural gas taken from the Gulf of Mexico, and provide for expedited environmental impact studies. The legislation would hand out $23.5 billion over 10 years in tax breaks to increase oil and gas production and $5.4 billion in subsidies and loan guarantees. The Senate once again passed the 2002 energy bill. The conference report to reconcile the two bills included the administration’s dirty energy policies and did nothing for consumers or clean energy; it was approved by the House but was blocked by a filibuster in the Senate. Yet the Senate still approved billions of dollars in tax credits for the oil and gas, coal, and nuclear industries.

More renewable energy budget cuts. President Bush’s FY 2004 budget once again reduced funding for solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass totaling more than $25 million in cuts. The fossil fuel budget increased around $10 million over 2003 levels.


House passes bill allowing companies to build oil refineries in minority communities. The United States Refinery Revitalization Act passed the House on June 16, but was never made into law. The bill would have made it easier to build or expand oil refineries in areas that the League of United Latin American Citizens argued are “heavily minority populated and already disproportionately impacted by refineries and other industries.” The League and the National Hispanic Environmental Council opposed the bill because of such environmental justice issues.


More renewable energy budget cuts. President Bush’s FY 2006 budget once again cut energy efficiency and renewable energy programs at the Department of Energy by about 4 percent; cuts totaled nearly $50 million.

Energy bill includes $27 billion for dirty energy. President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 on August 8. The bill closely resembled Cheney’s 2001 plan and gave $27 billion to coal, oil and gas, and nuclear, and only $6.4 billion for renewable energy. Amendments in the House and Senate to raise fuel efficiency standards for vehicles failed. Amendments in the House to remove provisions limiting state and local roles in the siting of oil refineries also failed, as did measures to ensure environmental justice for minority and low-income communities. Senate amendments requiring a renewable energy standard of 10 percent by 2020 and addressing global warming through mandatory limits on carbon emissions were dropped during conference.

Regulations permit oil and gas industry to regulate itself. The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service””the agency responsible for managing oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and collecting royalties from companies””decided in 2005 that oil companies, rather than the government, were in the best position to determining their operations’ environmental impacts. This meant that there was no longer any need for an environmental impact analysis for deepwater drilling, though an earlier draft stated that such drilling experience was limited. In fact, MMS “repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews.” And an interior general analysis even found that between 2005 and 2007 MMS officials let the oil industry to fill out their own inspection reports.


Bush: “America is addicted to oil.” President Bush states in the State of the Union Address on January 31 that, “America is addicted to oil.”

A House-passed bill allows drilling in Arctic Refuge. The House passed the American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act on May 25, which would open oil leases on the coastal strip of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge””an area of 1.5 million acres. The Arctic Refuge development was once again blocked in the Senate because drilling proponents were unable to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

More budget cuts for renewable energy. President Bush’s 2007 FY budget cut funding for energy conservation by 6.3 percent to $289 million and stopped funding for the geothermal program””although Congress later restored some of this geothermal funding.


Government agency failed to collect more than $865 million in revenues. Investigators from the Interior Department determined that a “top Interior Department official was told nearly three years ago about a legal blunder that allowed drilling companies to avoid billions of dollars in payments for oil and gas pumped from publicly owned waters.” The report found that the Minerals Management Service could have could have collected $865 million in the previous three years alone.

Budget cuts for renewable energy. President Bush’s fiscal year 2008 budget proposed to cut research funds for efficiency and renewable energy by 16 percent, eliminate them for geothermal energy, and leave funding for solar stagnant.

Bush administration opposes expansion of renewable energy. President Bush also threatened to veto the Energy Independence and Security Act because it included a renewable electricity standard and renewable energy tax credits funded by the elimination of many tax subsidies for major oil companies totaling approximately $13 billion. Congress eliminated these provisions from the bill, which President Bush then signed. Bush blocked a request the same day he signed the bill from California and a dozen other states that wanted to adopt global warming pollution standards that would have enhanced fuel economy and saved oil.


Budget cuts for renewable energy. President Bush proposes a 27 percent cut for Department of Energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in the FY 2008 budget.

Bush administration opposes expansion of renewable energy. President Bush opposed House passage of the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act, H.R. 5351, as advised on February 28.

Bush lifts moratorium on offshore drilling. Bush lifted the executive moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts on July 14. This moratorium was put in place in 1990 by Pres. George H.W. Bush. Bush then called on Congress to lift its own annual ban on drilling, as John McCain embraced “drill, baby, drill” that year.

Government agency accepted gifts and engaged in fraternizing and illicit activities. A June 2008 interior general report found that Minerals Management Service officials accepted gifts, engaged in drug use and illicit sex with employees from energy firms, and showed favoritism in handling contracts.

Gasoline prices soared to $3.31 per gallon, and oil set an all-time record high price of $147 per barrel in July 2008.

Rebecca Lefton is a Researcher for Progressive Media at American Progress.  This is a CAP repost.

25 Responses to BP oil disaster is Cheneys Katrina

  1. Wit's End says:

    Thank you so much for putting this together, it should be disseminated far and wide. I am so sick of seeing the media label this disaster “Obama’s Katrina.” It’s even more annoying when they headline with the question “Obama’s Katrina?” It’s so lame, and so lazy. Grrrr!

  2. paulm says:

    Understatement of the century?…“This process is teaching us to be skeptical of deadlines.”

    BP Oil Leak May Last Until Christmas in Worst Case Scenario

    Nigeria exports 44% of their oil to the US! Not in our backyard syndrome….

  3. Sasparilla says:

    This was a great article, thanks so much for putting it together – to have the chronology in one place is great and horrifying to see what was done to renewables. “The lost decade” certainly applies to us for this.

    One other hot button company that Cheney’s task force consulted with (extensively I believe) when setting up their energy plan for the country were the thieves at Enron (prior to that house of cards imploding).

    The price of gasoline (based on world oil prices) is interesting to see in there, however with oil prices set on the market globally, I doubt the previous administrations policies had much, if any, of an effect on them (the largest driver of higher prices appeared to be the fact that world demand soared over the time period while world crude oil production couldn’t increase significantly from a level achieved in 2005 and this powered the prices right up through the $4 gallon level in 2008 when demand finally collapsed bringing prices down – since supply could finally cover everything).

  4. Mike says:

    You should have mentioned that had BP followed industry standards, you know that whole self regulating thing, this accident would never have happened.

    [JR: Uhh, that would prove my point. Nobody to enforce anything.]

    And by the by, I have asked this question many place but have never gotten an answer: what specific piece of proposed regulation would have prevented this?

    [JR: Lots of stuff that Big Oil rejected under Bush-Cheney, including more oversight and possibly the acoustic back up.]

  5. Mike says:

    [JR: Uhh, that would prove my point. Nobody to enforce anything.]

    Whats to prevent someone from breaking the rules? Jail time …. fines, aren’t all these mechanisms in place? From what I have read about the explosion and subsequent leak and from what I know about the industry in general, it was BP’s project manager that deviated from industry standards, his permits, and the advice of his subcontractors. What would prevent someone in the future (besides the obvious) from simply ignoring the rules as BP’s project manager did on this drill?

    Should someone from MMS be on board a drilling rig during critical portions of the project just like OSHA does when dangerous conditions are known to be present and cannot be avoided (exceeding crane capacitates and the like).

    You know what they say, laws are for the lawless.

    [JR: Lots of stuff that Big Oil rejected under Bush-\Cheney, including more oversight and possibly the acoustic back up.]

    Yeah, I have read quite a bit about the acoustic switches. Couple things though. Their effectiveness has never been tested in a real life scenario, acoustic communication is difficult in these conditions (water and the depth). Secondly, it’s a bit premature to say that an acoustic switch would have worked because all signs are pointing to some sort of failure with the blowout preventer, since it did close partially. The acoustic switch is a backup method to communicate with the valve on the BOP, but it does not seem that communication with the BOP valve was an issue with this spill.

    What else falls under “lots of stuff”. Do you have a link to an article or some publication?

    [JR: Tricky to comment on this post. You need rigorous inspections, and yes, no method is perfect. But some oversight is better than none. I have linked to some articles on what the MMS proposed or pursued under Bush-Cheney.]

  6. mike roddy says:

    Joe, I would recommend that you not waste time with this character Mike. He’s just another troll.

    The most horrifying part of this post was the photo of Bush and Cheney. It brings back painful memories. How in the world did this country ever survive those guys?

  7. Jeff says:

    Obviously we haven’t survived Bush/Cheney.

    It cost us in the trillions to save ourselves and the 50% of Americans who elected them believe Obama just spent all this money in a year.

    Sadly, we deserve everything bad that happens because we’ve proven ourselves to be unable to get off our asses and chase down Bush and Cheney or vote them out. They had a free for all for 8 years and got away with it–the economy, banks, wars, energy and the worst thing is they laughed at us as they helped their friends destroy America.

    There are nearly 50% of Americans who are so misinformed that they would vote for Bush and Cheney or their GOP replacements right now.

  8. Sean says:

    Quick, if maybe dumb question. I overhead my rather conservative dad saying that the federal gov can’t regulate where the Deepwater rig was. Yet, we send federal inspectors to check the rig out right? I haven’t found anything that says we don’t regulate it, so it sounds to me to basically be an excuse similar to the “we couldn’t predict” or “it couldn’t be prevented” mantras. Just hoping the folks here could provide some confirmation either way. Thanks.

  9. James Newberry says:

    Thanks for great research. Disaster in the making.

    We have become a kleptomatic plutocracy drifting toward corporate globalized fascism based on mining explosive and poisonous materials as “energy” (the fraud of fuels) controlled by centralized, financialized political power.

    This country was built on revolution and we need another.

  10. prokaryote says:

    Halliburton Profited by BP’s Destruction of the Gulf Coast and Cheney’s Company Made a Profit

  11. prokaryote says:

    Transocean Trying to Cap Damages for Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, U.S. Department of Justice Says No Way

  12. prokaryote says:

    If scientists’ worst fears are realized, the oil plume in the Gulf could choke off and kill coastal marshes in the productive Mississippi Delta and barrier islands, turning these verdant tufts of life — which look like hairy putting greens floating out on the water — into open ocean. That would snap the region’s marine food chain, exposing and starving all kinds of organisms.

    Overton said the impacts of such an occurrence would last for a century.

    Equally frightening, the oil also could spawn a massive oxygen-free “dead zone” deep in the Gulf’s waters, which would suffocate all marine life on the ocean floor. Samantha Joye, an oceanographer at the University of Georgia, said that if that happens, the dead zone could change marine chemistry in the Gulf of Mexico forever.

  13. Ron Broberg says:

    I overhead my rather conservative dad saying that the federal gov can’t regulate where the Deepwater rig was.

    I read something similar on another blog. People are confused on the national/international water issue. Short story: Reagan extended our national sea boundaries out to 200 miles.

  14. ldasteelworker says:

    For a graphic illustration of the problem, one need only look at this chart [ ] from a study released by the Environmental Law Institute, a nonpartisan research and policy organization. It shows that the federal government has provided substantially larger subsidies to fossil fuels than to renewable energy. Subsidies to fossil fuels totaled approximately $72 billion over the seven-year study period, while subsidies for renewable fuels totaled $29 billion over the same period.

    The full report can be found here: [ ]

    Fact: There currently is no level playing field for renewable energy to compete upon.

    Fact: Our tax dollars are given at a rate 6 times the renewable energy industry in the form of money and tax credits to the fossil fuel industries that are making record profits.

    Fact: The fossil fuel industries continue to externalize vast amounts of the costs of producing and using their energy on to the public and our environment which provides unfair advantages in the marketplace and shifts the real costs to us – the consumers of their dirty energy sources…

  15. Russ Keane says:

    A marvelous timeline, drawing together some important information as we look back on how we got here……

    I would love to see a chart which shows the correlation with Halliburton’s contracts awarded and profits earned during this period. Obviously Dick Cheney dictated events in order to ensure his company would be very busy and very rich during his tenure in office. It remains an unthinkable and disgusting example of high-level white collar criminal activity, and a huge blemish on our national record.

  16. Sean says:

    Thanks Ron at #13. That helps clarify things more. I also did a little more digging last night and found a good summary by the MMS on a site they have about California offshore drilling. It cleared up a lot of the stuff about the Exclusive Economic Zone and what the MMS has regulatory powers over.

    It’s just frustrating whenever people say these things as if they’re facts when they’re clearly not. Similiar to people saying it’s the environmentalists’ fault that the oil companies are drilling as far out as they are and not because the easy oil has already been found. If the facts don’t support the ideology, twist them around to make them fit I guess.

  17. Mike says:

    “Tricky to comment on this post. You need rigorous inspections, and yes, no method is perfect. But some oversight is better than none. I have linked to some articles on what the MMS proposed or pursued under Bush-Cheney”

    I read the past entries on climateprogress related to this spill/leak/geyser and so far the only thing I read related to rejected regulations was an article from NOLA’s website about a proposed requirement for acoustic switches made back in 2000/2001 that was shelved. Considering its likely that the switch would not have helped, is there anything else?

  18. john atcheson says:

    Thank god — this is exactly the story that needs to be reported.

  19. Chris Winter says:

    Mike wrote: “I read the past entries on climate progress related to this spill/leak/geyser and so far the only thing I read related to rejected regulations was an article from NOLA’s website about a proposed requirement for acoustic switches made back in 2000/2001 that was shelved. Considering it’s likely that the switch would not have helped, is there anything else?”

    A great deal.

    First of all, I think the requirement you refer to was for backup shutoff devices, not for an acoustic shutoff switch specifically. My information is that the requirement was proposed in 2000 and rejected in 2003.

    Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., sent President Obama a letter Thursday reminding him that in 2000 the Interior Department insisted “oil companies have ‘reliable backup systems’ in the event of a rig blowout.”

    By 2003, the plan was scrapped.

    Second, while oil company executives have raised questions about the reliability of acoustic switches, the fact that Norway and Brazil require them suggests that performance test data exist to support that requirement.

    Third and most telling is the apparent fact that BP* did not even maintain the shutoff devices it did pay for on the Deepwater Horizon’s last well.

    * I’m not sure who would have been responsible for that maintenance, but BP was paying the bills.

  20. Mike says:

    Chris Winter: Thanks for the response. A couple of things though.

    First the “backup plan” that Nelson was referring to was the acoustic shutoff switch. This isn’t a redundancy for containment, its a redundancy in communications. Since the BOP did engage (perhaps not fully), it would appear that the proposed acoustic switch would have played no role in preventing the disaster. Your second point is also addressed with this.

    As for BP’s failure to maintain the device, what do you base this off of? Are there records indicating that OEM scheduled maintenance was not performed on the device?

  21. Leif says:

    Mike, #20: I thought it was reported that the battery was dead and the drill core seal had been compromised weeks before. Also a loose hydraulic fitting was reported. Sounds like poor attention to basics to me.

  22. Dustin says:

    Do you realize the federal registry note is dated 1 day after the Katrina landfall? Now we know what Bush and Cheney were doing!

  23. Winnie Mitchell says:

    Thanks for helping us fully understand Cheney’s evil practices. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” is apropos to the Bush/Cheney Administration.

  24. Claudia, Houston, Tx says:

    Unfortunately most bloggers don’t research what they hear, they just take it and run with it. I’ve always encouraged others to read, listen and do your own RESEARCH FOR THE TRUTH. Because I do, this information is true and accurate the only thing not told in this article about Cheney resigning from Halliburton is that he gave his job to a relative.

  25. Mel says:

    Thank you for this timeline; however, I think it would be more useful to see a timeline which includes the last two years and the role of Ken Salazar’s department in waiving key environmental regulations for BP’s drilling operation.

    This is not an issue of democrat versus republican, so long as we use that frame we will lose. Both democratic voters and republican voters are concerned about what is happening in the Gulf and both democratic legislators and republican legislators have let us down.

    Please help us move beyond this limiting dichotomy.