Thursday, November 10, 2005

Corporate Oil Priorities

Congress held hearings on record oil windfall profits for the largest oil corporations this week. The Big Oil CEOs tried to frame the argument against a windfall tax on oil profits as a matter to be left to a free market in a global economy, citing the price controls instituted by government during the oil crisis of the 1970s that resulted in shortages for American consumers. Economically speaking, their assertions are indeed correct, but the framing of this debate in that context is shortsighted and only delaying the inevitable long-term socioeconomic, environmental, and global consequences. Investing in renewable resources and new technologies must become a national priority for the sake of our own national security and that of the rest of the world. Any windfall profits tax should be aimed at encouraging exploration of a wide variety of alternative sources of energy, not more oil, and educating the public on individual responsibility to conserve energy and become more self-sufficient. Although Congress efforts to direct a small percentage of those profits towards the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LHEAP) is well intentioned, ultimately it will not solve the long-term consequences of reliance on fossil fuels as the primary source of energy and transportation.

The long history of our love for cheap oil accelerated during the 1973 Arab embargo that was in direct response to the Nixon Administration’s economic policies. The removal of the U.S. dollar from the gold standard resulted in a devaluation of the oil resources controlled by OPEC. In addition, the West’s continued uneven support of Israel against the powerless Palestinians, and other U.S. foreign policies that included the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 because of its opposition to the U.S. oil corporations’ control over its natural resource, subsequently installing the Shah’s oppressive authoritative Islamist regime in its place had angered the Arab world, both moderates and extremists alike and continue to this day. The Iranian revolution of 1979 that overthrew the Shah and the subsequent hostage crisis were a direct result of U.S. foreign policy dictated by self-interested U.S. oil corporations. This corrupt corporate policy in foreign matters continued with the backing of the subsequent Iraqi invasion of Iran led by Saddam Hussein, the arming of Iran-contras in Nicaragua, and the mujahideen forces led by bin Laden in Afghanistan against the Soviets. All of these events set the stage for September 11, 2001 and is the perfect example of blowback. The 20th Century should be remembered for the Cold War policies of the West that involved corporate oil grabs from Third World Islamic countries with ties to extremist groups that were armed by the U.S. to fight communism. In essence, the oil corporations’ involvement in foreign policy decisions is partly responsible for the creation of an armed and increasingly widespread backlash by global Islamic terrorists against the West and its moderate Islamic sympathizers.

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