The recent revelations about BP’s alleged role in pressing for the release of convicted Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi in order to secure valuable oil concessions in Libya provides a potent reminder of the influence oil companies and other major corporations exert over foreign policy. New evidence uncovered by ThinkProgress shows that America’s own oil giants are also trying to shape U.S. foreign policy to protect or enhance their own profits, even if it puts American security at risk.
Lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Senate this week show that the American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Halliburton lobbied the House, Senate, and various executive branch agencies on the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act during the first half of the year as the bill was being debated in the Senate.
Big Oil’s interest in weakening the law is obvious. Among other things, the new law, signed by President Obama on July 1, imposes significant new sanctions on individuals and corporations “that directly and significantly contribute to Iran’s ability to develop petroleum resources” and that sell more than $200,000 in fuel or other refined petroleum products to Iran. The new sanctions are important because “although Iran is the second-largest oil producer in the world, it lacks refining capacity and relies on foreign suppliers for nearly 5 million gallons of gasoline a day.” In addition, the country’s energy industry is “a huge source of revenue for the Iranian government and a stronghold of the increasingly powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” which “oversees Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.”
Big Oil has no shortage of experience in doing business with Iran. A New York Times investigation revealed that many of these same companies often want to have it both ways by doing business with Iran at the same time that they receive billions in contracts and revenues from the U.S. government:
- ExxonMobil, which spent $2.5 million on lobbying last quarter, currently enjoys $4.9 billion in revenues from federal oil and gas leases and sold fuel additives to Iran until 2006.
- Shell, which spent $4 million on lobbying last quarter, has $11.9 billion in revenues and benefits from the U.S. government, a wide variety of business relationships with Iran, and is alleged to be in violation of the 1996 Iran Sanctions Act—the very law amended by the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act.
- ConocoPhillips, which spent $5.5 million lobbying last quarter, accrues $1.7 billion in revenue from federal grants and oil and gas leases and still actively profits from selling gasoline to Iran via Lukoil, in which it holds a minority stake.
- Halliburton has a whopping $27.1 billion in government contracts and, until 2007, provided oil and gas drilling services to Iran through a foreign subsidiary.
Big Oil helps prop up Iran’s regime in another important way: by opposing strong clean energy and climate legislation. The kind of strong legislation to move us off oil that is vocally opposed by the American Petroleum Institute would deny Iran $100 million a day in petrodollars.
The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Act passed the House 412-12 and the Senate 99-0, so it’s not surprising that Big Oil’s activities in Iran are not very popular. While the websites of API and the oil companies say virtually nothing about Iran, ConocoPhillips appears to have inadvertently posted dozens of complaints it received about profiting from doing business with Iran. One commenter simply says “screw your buddies in Iran,” while another writes “I hpoe [sic] you choke on the blood stained money that you make from Iran.”