Oil Ways on my Mind

Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee hosted the CEOs of the 5 largest oil companies to answer a few questions about the need for continued subsidies and tax breaks in the face of $100+ per barrel oil prices and subsequent high gas prices.By all accounts it was quite a show, with Conoco’s CEO refusing to apologize for calling efforts to strip out oil company tax breaks “un-American” despite the fact that he had admitted back in ’05 that with oil at $55/barrel they didn’t need some of the exploration and development incentives.We also saw Exxon Mobil call the efforts of some Democrats to eliminate the big 5’s tax breaks “misinformed and discriminatory” after he admitted that the price of oil should be $60-$70/barrel, seen as some as an effort to shift blame for high gas prices to Wall Street and oil speculators. Despite Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s heated defense of the oil industry, the public seems to get where to lay blame for high gas prices, with a recent CNN poll showing well over half of all Americans putting primary responsibility on the shoulders of the 5 fellows in front of the Senate Committee, AND speculators and financial markets, while letting President Obama and environmental regs largely off the hook.Of course, environmental regulations and the Obama administration’s efforts to make offshore oil drilling marginally safer are what has prompted the House of Representatives to pass their ridiculous bills opening up new coastal areas to drilling and forcing the Interior Department to accelerate offshore permitting. While these bills are likely a non-starter in the Senate, it’s incredibly troubling that the House could pass these bills in the wake of what the Gulf has gone through the past year.It’s outrageous that a year since these 5 corporations were last dragged up to Capitol Hill to answer for their misdeeds, not a single bill has been signed into law to respond to the BP drilling disaster. While Washington plays gotcha and swats at high gas prices, they’ve completely taken their eye off the Gulf, despite an absence of outcomes to help restore the Gulf or make it safer, such as directing BP’s clean water act fines to Gulf restoration or passing a Gulf citizens’ advisory council to increase the transparency and community accountability of the oil industry’s actions in the Gulf.{source}// You can place JavaScript like this{/source}Oh, and just in case you thought there was no further need to keep an eye on the industry and hold them accountable, here’s the latest from SkyTruth, refuting the idea you can trust the self-reporting oil industry to clean up or cop to their messes.It’s well past time that our politicians should have clued into the fact that what’s good for the oil industry isn’t always what’s good for the Gulf. While we don’t want to shut them down and run them off, we can no longer afford to look the other way as they mangle our coast and communities and jeopardize our way of life. It seems to me that efforts to trim the billions they recieve in tax breaks and incentives are about the least we can do, and if Congress wants to really support the Gulf, they need to take up restoration and industry accountability right away.Aaron Viles is GRN’s Deputy Director. Follow him on Twitter here.

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