Category Archives: Energy

BP Dumps on Gulf Clean-up

BP has decided that it’s done with that “responsibility thang.”

In an op-ed article this month in Gulf Coast newspapers, John Mingé, the chairman of BP America, highlighted the coast’s record tourism numbers, emphasized the $27 billion BP had spent and dismissed environmentalists skeptical of the gulf’s recovery as advocates using the spill “to raise money for their causes.”

They took a lot of credit in their PR for their continuing resolve to stick with the clean-up after they damn near destroyed the whole Gulf Of Mexico. They were, they said, “committed to returning the Gulf to its previous greatness” Or words to that effect repeated again…and again and again…over the past years. Until now. Continue reading

BP Bail Fail – UPDATED

The corporation that virtually destroyed half the Gulf of Mexico by spilling millions of tons of oil into it tried this week to get out of its responsibility – and previous agreement – to pay for at least some of the damage it caused.

Last week, [the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals] rejected [British Petroleum]’s attempt to stop businesses in the Gulf from collecting on losses resulting from the 2010 oil disaster. BP claimed that the companies were trying to recover “fictitious losses,” but the New Orleans court didn’t buy it. In a 2-to-1 ruling, the judges upheld an earlier ruling against BP, and said that an injunction on BP payments to Gulf businesses should be lifted. These payments are part of a settlement that BP agreed to back in 2012 – a settlement that the oil company said was “good for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf, and in the best interests of BP’s stakeholders.”

This is just s-o-o-o corporate America. First they lowball damage estimates, then they make promises they have no intention of keeping, then they attack the victims by claiming they’re perpetrating fraud, and finally they send their high-priced lawyers to convince the courts to let them off the hook when the damages turn out to cost more than their original, absurdly low, estimate. Corporate America takes NO responsibility for its actions unless forced to by the courts (an increasingly rare outcome, btw) and even then never stop trying to get out from under. Continue reading

This Will Not Happen

There’s a new analysis of the Gulf oil spill that makes plain the reasons for it are, as many of us said, systemic. Not an accident, not a once-in-a-lifetime concatenation of incompetence, faulty equipment, and mismanagement, no, the direct result of BAU. The report calls for massive new regulation of the oil industry. The reason I know this will not happen is that Harry Reid promises to get right on it. QED.

Moloch in Action: How It Works

Jim Morin, Miami Herald

Stoopid Is Gud!

Tom Tomorrow on Our Most Precious Resource (click to enlarge)

Why Gas Prices Are So High 2: The Loophole

We all know by now that the oil companies have been using Iraq as cover for a species of price-gouging that defies both law and custom by such a wide margin that the mind boggles. And we’re probably all wondering how they get away with it in the face of Congressional opposition and threats of hearings and new laws to stop them. Most seem to put the lack of action down to the standard Democratic cowardice when faced with actions that might displease corporate contributors. I did myself until I read this.

Seven years ago, Enron lobbyists sought to free their new experiment in electronic trading, “Enron Online,” from oversight by the principle regulator of energy futures and derivatives, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. They managed to drop a loophole into an appropriations bill that has effectively exempted all electronic over-the-counter energy commodity markets from US regulation. Before this bill was passed, crude oil was under $25 per barrel and motorists enjoyed affordable gasoline.

Since then, energy commodity traders and hedge funds have poured billions of dollars into these “dark markets.” According to a bipartisan report published by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, excessive speculation may be responsible for as much as $20-$25 of a barrel of crude oil. Between 50 cents to $1 per gallon of gasoline may be a direct result of irrational and unethical behavior in the commodity markets. Enron may be long gone, but its legacy remains.

Few Americans realize the extent to which futures trading on dark markets determines the price they pay for energy. Daily trading has an immediate impact on the price of gasoline, heating oil, natural gas, and other fuels. A large majority of futures trading — as much as 75 percent, according to experts — is conducted on unregulated dark markets, as opposed to trading on regulated markets, including the New York Mercantile Exchange.

(emphasis added)

Without first repealing that loophole, Congress actually has no legal basis for passing anti-price-gouging legislation since the oil companies can insist – as they have repeatedly – that they’re only responding to “market forces” when they raise their prices, leaving aside the uncomfortable little detail that they used their sockpuppet relationship with the Republican Congress to create that “force” in the first place. Fortunately, Democratic leaders are not unaware of the problem.

A bill called the “Oil and Gas Traders Oversight Act” would close this loophole and bring accountability to the dark markets. Congress should pass this bill, put an end to the real “price gouging,” and tell commodity market profiteers to stop playing with their constituents’ wallets.

Republicans will no doubt threaten to filibuster it.

The Other Surge

Pat Oliphant


Gas Prices and the News Media

If we ever hope to become at least sophisticated enough to avoid voting yet another parlous disaster into the presidency, we’re going to have to give up our naivete, however comforting and familiar it might be, and grow up. To achieve this lofty goal (lofty for Americans, anyway) we’re going to need a press full of cynics and skeptics rather than propagandists, ideologues, and sycophants like the one we have now. We’re going to need people who recognize lies when they hear them and can – at a minimum – tell empty-gesture political theater from political theater with a legitimate purpose behind it.

Case in point:

For two solid years, gas prices have risen based on excuses that wouldn’t fool my 6-yr-old nephew, and the oil industry has raked in 8 quarters of record profits, profits so high that even Richard Nixon would have frozen them a year ago or else pushed Congress to pass a windfall-profits tax. The Pubs, of course, did neither of those things, instead periodically producing an “Outrage at Oil Prices Dance Ritual” wherein they made lots of noise and a Big Show fulminating against the absurdly high price of gas and unconscionable, equally absurdly high profits ripped from unsuspecting consumers’ dwindling pocketbooks by the oil industry. All of this was dutifully reported by a breathless press as proof that Republicans cared about the little guy.

Then, when the ballet was over and the cameras and klieg lights were turned off, the Pubs would go back to Congress and write more bills giving more money in tax breaks and incentives to already obscenely fat oil companies. Which our kiss-ass press did NOT report because, after all, today’s news media doesn’t report on bills that are never written. You can’t, they will piously explain to anyone who dares criticize them, report on a negative. That would be showing bias.

No, but what they could have done was mention, say, after the second year of watching this performance, that the very same outraged Republics frothing at the mouth over high gasoline prices had just finished awarding the energy industry $$$BILLIONS$$$ in corporate welfare for projects they had more than enough money to do for themselves. They might even have told us about the money the energy industry had donated to the campaigns of those who voted for that welfare. But they didn’t do either of those things because then they’d have been guilty of partisan reporting.

Comes this week and six Democratic Senators staging a little political theater of their own.

Continue reading

SCOTUS Score: One and One

The Roberts Court yesterday handed the Bush Administration one victory and one defeat, and the victory may turn out to be Pyrrhic.

1. Detainee Suit Rejected

The SCOTUS won’t be hearing a suit filed by almost 400 Gitmo prisoners trying to restore the legal rights taken away from them by Bush and the Republican Congress.

The court decision was a significant victory for President Bush, who has asserted for nearly six years that the fate of hundreds of detainees, held without charges as alleged terrorists at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, should be determined by secret military tribunals. The decision leaves intact, at least for now, a measure passed at the administration’s urging last year when Congress still was in Republican hands that denies Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to such habeas corpus petitions.

This despite the fact that the Court has ruled not once but twice in the last three years that the detainees have the right to petition the courts to “contest their detention”. Continue reading

Bloomberg Solves the Energy Crisis

The sometimes staggering greed of corporate America is matched only by its affection for simple solutions to complex problems. offers a perspective on energy policy that you may have missed.

President George W. Bush used his State of the Union address to lay out an ambitious energy policy that significantly expands a number of existing programs. The centerpiece of his plan will increase our reliance on biofuels by a factor of five. In other words, he announced a policy that makes no sense whatsoever.

Of all of the embarrassing corners of government policy, our approach to energy may be the most shamefully indefensible. And now the indefensible is going to get bigger.

Sounds OK so far, but where are they going with this? Continue reading

Puppets of Paranoia

The Mighty MIC and the Neoconservatives: What Happened to the ‘Peace Dividend’?

Jim Lobe of the Asia Times in a review of America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order, argues that oil wasn’t the primary reason for the Second Gulf War–neoconservative ideology was.

Big Oil, to the extent it took any position at all on the war, opposed it. As evidence, they cite the unusually public opposition to a unilateral invasion voiced quite publicly by such eminent oil and ruling class-related influentials as former president George H W Bush’s national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and secretary of state James Baker.While they do not deny that some economic interests – construction giants, such as Halliburton and Bechtel, and high-tech arms companies – may have given the push to war some momentum, the decisive factor in their view was ideological, and the ideology, “neo-conservative”.

Powered by both Jewish and non-Jewish neo-conservatives centered in the offices of Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney and by White House deference to the solidly pro-Zionist Christian Right, the neo-conservative world view – dedicated to the security of Israel and the primacy of military power in a world of good and evil – emerged after September 11, 2001, as the driving force in President Bush’s foreign policy, as well as the dominant narrative in a cowed and complacent mass media.

He–and the authors–may have a point, though both seem to have interpreted Big Oil’s silence as opposition when it was most probably nothing of the sort. If they were opposed to it, why were representatives of Chevron, Shell, British Petroleum, and other international oil corporations in Dick Cheney’s office in October ’03 pouring over maps and divvying up Irag’s oil fields?

If it’s too simplistic to say the SGW is about oil alone, it’s way too simplistic to say it’s about ideology alone, but Lobe and the authors have nevertheless done some necessary work to redress an imbalance and give the neocons more of the responsibilty they’ve earned for the mess we’re in. The authors–Stefan Halper, a Scowcroft Reaganite, and Jonathan Clarke, a retired British diplomat now at the libertarian Cato Institute–detail the history of neoconservatism from its roots in a reaction to the Holocaust to its development as the most fear-ridden and militaristic world view since Naziism itself.

To Halper and Clarke, the neo-conservative world view revolves around three basic themes: that “the human condition is defined as a choice between good and evil”; that military power and the willingness to use it are the fundamental determinants in relations between states; and that the Middle East and “global Islam” should be the primary focus in US foreign policy.These core beliefs create certain predispositions: analyzing foreign policy in terms of “black-and-white, absolute moral categories”; espousing the “unipolar” power of the United States and disdaining conventional diplomacy, multilateral institutions or international law; seeing international criticism as evidence of “American virtue”; regarding the use of military power as the first, rather than last, resort in dealing with the enemy, particularly when anything less might be considered “appeasement”; and harking back to the Ronald Reagan administration (1981-89) as the exemplar of “moral clarity” in foreign policy.

While all this is true, what it overlooks is the rather neat way the neocon ideology fits into the needs and goals of both Big Oil and the MIC–the Military-Industrial Complex. Eisenhower warned us of its power, its ruthlessness, and its determination to keep the world in turmoil in order to keep itself in business and its profits high in his famous Farewell Speech, but he was talking mainly about the MIC of the late 50’s–a mostly American phenomenon centered on controlling the US govt’s foreign policy in ways that would keep the money flowing from our Treasury to theirs. Since then, the MIC–like every other big corporation–has gone global.

Why the Great ‘Peace Dividend’ Wasn’t Allowed

With the collapse of the Soviet govt in ’89, the end of the Cold War was supposed to mean the end of massive defense budgets in the Free World, defense budgets that were eating up Western treasuries, and a subsequent reapportioning of that money to domestic priorities that had gone begging–literally–in order to feed the MIC. But when Clinton tried to take advantage of that opening, conservatives–and not just the neo kind–started wailing and gnashing their teeth, claiming that Clinton was ‘weakening our military’ and endangering the country. The defense budget was cut somewhat the first two years of his first admin, but when the Republicans–led by arch-neocon Newt Gingrich–took control of the House in ’94, they made bringing the defense budget back up to previous levels a top priority.

They did better than their promise–they increased it over previous levels, mainly by championing large-scale and incredibly expensive-to-develop-and-build military hardware of dubious value that even the Pentagon didn’t want. $$$BILLIONS$$$ were pissed away on white-elephant projects like Star Wars and the B1 bomber. The latter took 20 years before we even saw a prototype; the former has taken a full quarter-century and experts are saying the same thing they were saying 25 years ago: ‘It’s a pipe-dream. It can’t be done.’ Yet Star Wars is still in the budget and a few B1’s have rolled off the assembly line at a cost of a cool $1Bil per copy despite the fact that the USAF has yet to find a legitimate use for them.

As late as last march, Lobe was writing of a study just released by the Center for Defense Information that concluded that more than 20% of the US military budget could be cut without any undue harm whatsoever to our military preparedness.

The report charges that some of the most expensive items in the budget have little or nothing to do with the threats the US confronts in the world today, and calls for a much more integrated approach to determining defense priorities that would include non-military – such as economic assistance and peacekeeping – as well as strictly military programs.The report, “A Unified Security Budget for the United States”, concludes that some US$51 billion of the proposed $230 billion 2005 budget could be saved by reallocating funding within military accounts, while the savings could be used on non-military initiatives that could substantially boost overall security.

“Cutting the Comanche [helicopter] program was a good start,” said Marcus Corbin, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information (CDI), citing one weapon the administration has already said it will cut.

“But our report identifies 10 other programs, including the F-22 fighter and DDX destroyer, that could be safely cut or reconfigured to free up resources for other neglected security priorities, such as diplomatic operations, weapons of mass destruction [WMD] non-proliferation and port container inspection,” he said.

The 23-page report, co-sponsored by CDI, Project for Defense Alternatives (PDA), the Center for Arms Control and Proliferation (CACP), and Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF), among others, comes amid growing public concern over build up of unprecedented fiscal deficits and the impact on them of the rapidly rising defense budget.

From 2000 to 2004, the Pentagon’s budget ballooned by more than 50 percent, bringing it to a level comparable to that of the world’s next 25 biggest military spenders combined, according to the CACP. Moreover, its current proposal for 2005 does not include expenditures for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Pentagon is spending nearly $70 billion this year alone. (emphasis added)

The ‘peace dividend’ got turned over to the military anyway, despite an almost surreal lack of identifiable enemies. Why? The answer is complicated, involving political realities, recent and not-so-recent history, economic imperatives, and imponderable intangibles like fear, anger, and guilt, but the major strands can be identified fairly simply: WWII and the MIC.

The neocons aren’t the only ones whose ideological dogma comes straight out of a response to Germany’s treachery. Much of the hysteria over the Soviets’ imaginary desire for ‘world domination’ stems from a pathological need, mostly of conservatives, to never again be caught napping while a threat builds. The MIC has proven to be extraordinarily adept at exploiting that latent paranoia and aiming it toward concrete objectives: weapons. For 50 years, their most powerful argument has been as bare and as bald as this: ‘Your enemies are everywhere. Buy this weapon and you’ll be safe from them.’

In the same way that African and South/Central American dictators could count on and manipulate US support no matter what heinous crimes they committed, up to and including mass murder, as long as they claimed to be ‘anti-Communist’, the MIC could frighten and bully the US govt into funding their weapons no matter how many ‘cost overruns’, accounting scandals, pricing outrages ($400 for the same hammer that you could buy in a hardware store for $20), or convictions for corruption tainted their record as long as they claimed that what they were doing made the country ‘safer’.

We have fallen so far down the rabbit hole that we allowed the neocons to drive their paranoid fantasies right into the heart of American policy, and we did so because we have been hearing so many different versions of the MIC’s doomsday scenarios over the past half-century that it hardly registers any more who exactly the enemy is, only that there is one. It didn’t matter to us that Saddam had norhing to do with 9/11 or that he was a US ally before the First Gulf War–an ally that we supported with money and, of course, arms, including chemical weapons–only that yet another ‘enemy’ had been identified.

The MIC’s need for enemies and the neocons’ unreasonable fear of them worked together to produce the atmosphere that allowed, encouraged, even required our intense over-reaction to the 9/11 attack, an over-reaction that the neocons and the MIC then channeled into the bogus war that they’d been promoting since the early 90’s. The SGW has two primary directives:

1) To position us to protect Israel;
2) To position us to control and protect the Middle East oil supply.

Those prime directives, fueled ideologically by the neocons and for purely practical purposes by the MIC and Big Oil, have resulted in our now having the largest military budget in our history by any measure you care to use.

NEW YORK – After declining in the post-Cold War era of the early 1990s, global military spending is on the rise again – threatening to break the US$1 trillion barrier this year, according to a group of United Nations-appointed military experts.The 16-member group estimates that military spending will rise to nearly $950 billion by the end of 2004, up from $900 billion in 2003. By contrast, rich nations spend $50 billion to $60 billion on development aid each year.

The 2004 estimates would be “substantially higher if the costs of the major armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were included”, the experts say in a 30-page report released in New York. The US Congress has authorized spending of about $25 billion for Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004, but that is expected to more than double by the end of the year. US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate in May that war spending in Afghanistan and Iraq was approaching about $5 billion a month. He predicted that total costs for 2005 would be $50 billion to $60 billion.

“With the end of the Cold War, global military expenditure started to decrease,” the report said. “Many expected that this would result in a peace dividend as declining military spending and a less confrontational international environment would release financial, technological and human resources for development purposes.”But that never materialized, say the experts, who included retired Brigadier Richard Baly of the UK Department for International Development; Friedrich Groning, deputy commissioner of Germany’s Arms Control and Disarmament Department; Catharina Kipp, director of the Department for Global Security in Sweden; and Prasad Kariyawasam, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka.

“Despite decades of discussions and proposals on how to release resources from military expenditure for development purposes, the international community has not been able to agree on limiting military expenditure or establishing a ratio of military spending to national development expenditure,” they write.

At the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1970s, global military spending rose above $900 billion. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it kept declining, to about $780 billion in 1999. The recent increases are due primarily to a significant rise in the US military budget.

“The United States now accounts for about half of world military spending, meaning that it is spending nearly as much as the rest of the world combined,” said Natalie J Goldring, executive director of the program on global security and disarmament at the University of Maryland. “This is difficult to justify on the basis of known or anticipated threats to US national security.” (emphasis added)

Not ‘difficult’. Impossible. This reckless spending isn’t about ‘known’ or even ‘anticipated’ threats; it’s about threats that have been specially and specifically created out of whole cloth to justify the continued domination of the MIC and the imperial dominance of American hegemony which the neocons insist is the only path to ‘safety’ for both Israel and the US–safety from Islamic terrorists, safety from threats to the oil supply.

As long as we insist on reacting with fear instead of common sense when manipulators and psychopaths try to sell us their nightmares, there will always be another ‘enemy’. If we don’t have any real ones, they’ll make some up. As long as we’re consumed with fighting the last war, whether it be WWII or Viet Nam (itself a reaction to WWII), instead of realistically asssessing the dangers that face us now, not 50 years ago, we will be nothing but puppets of the paranoia and greed that have been leading us by the nose for their own enrichment for the past five decades.

Hussein isn’t Hitler, GWB isn’t FDR, Paul Wolfowitz isn’t Winston Churchill, the neocons aren’t entirely sane, and the MIC cares about nothing but its profits. It’s time to shake the sand from our eyes and wake up.

FITE: The Looming Energy Crisis

Newsletter #29

A tiny fraction of 1% of Americans are the super rich – the ones who earn $50,000 to $100,000 per hour, even when they aren’t really working. Like the rest of us, they don’t like to pay taxes – but they can use their power and influence to see to it that they pay a fraction of the taxes they should pay.

Publicly they tell us it’s OK because they use their money to create jobs. The more taxes they pay, they claim, the less jobs they create. High unemployment rates? Not to worry, they say. It would be worse if they had to pay higher taxes.

The tradeoff seems reasonable to a lot of people – they’ll make more wise investments in the free market if we tax them less.

Nowhere is it more obvious than in the energy business that this country has been at the short end of this tradeoff. They have been telling us for years they know how to manage the energy sector. They assured us we will always have enough oil, gas, and coal to fuel the economy. And in trade, “our” government gave them tax write-offs so they would presumably invest in producing even more energy.

But they have made a terrible mistake and are incapable of admitting it. They were so busy looking at their hefty quarterly profits – boosted by hefty tax write-offs – that they failed to take notice over the last 20 years that there were ample signs that it was getting harder every year to find enough oil to fuel our economy.

There were more and more dry wells, no more gushers, ever shorter life spans for new wells, and, now, declining production for the last of the huge fields in the Middle East. And this happened despite unprecedented advances in discovery and recovery technology.

Common sense could or should have told them affordable oil wouldn’t be around forever. But they were mesmerized by some of the heftiest profits among the multinationals.

They continue to resist any effort to transition away from fossil fuels and insist that global warming is a scare tactic even when the mainstream media has been making it clear since January that there is a looming energy crisis. [URL’s to articles, Paul Robert’s book – perhaps annotated reference at the end]

A constant stream of articles in the mainstream press since January has made it clear that world oil production is winding down. The yearly oil production in all but one major field, Russia, is in decline. But the oil multinationals are still in denial. Worse, they use their considerable power and influence to discredit any efforts to either transition or even to think about it. Meanwhile, the entire energy industry continues to get hefty tax breaks.

Their only “solution” is military force that we all pay for. It’s expensive to have bases in all of the locations where major oil fields reside, and it’s very expensive to wage war and occupy another country. As we pointed out in a previous newsletter, including the hidden costs of oil at the gas pump would bring it up to at least $6/gallon. But, as long as these costs don’t show up on the price at the pump, people don’t think about it. including the hidden costs of oil at the gas pump would bring it up to at least $6/gallon.

Clearly, the super rich in the energy sector have failed miserably at managing the energy sector of our economy. All the trillions in tax breaks they got with their power and influence bought us and our country little in return. They only enriched themselves.

This brewing crisis will have consequences so terrible they are hard to imagine. Unless, that is, solutions are found. That’s why FITE will from now on make it a major focus of this newsletter.

For further reading on the end of oil, we recommend:

If you want to know about all aspects of the looming energy crisis, “The End of Oil” by Paul Roberts’ new book is an excellent resource. He pulls together the diplomatic, financial, political, and economic aspects of the problem.

For a shorter and more limited view, see Matt Savinar’s web site. But while Savinar is reasonably competent, he has the usual limitations of any doom-and-gloomer type in regard to solutions. In fact, he wrote to us that “The only ‘solution’ is to prepare to go back to a stone age existence.” We, on the other hand, believe there are solutions, albeit complex ones, that sufficient political will could implement.

A more complete bibliography is available on request.

Charles Palson


Archived letters

Bush Admin Endangers 1000-yr-old Paintings for Energy Corp

Further proof, if you needed it, that corporations don’t give a damn about anything except the bottom line.The Bill Barrett Corporation, a Denver gas exploration and development company, wants to set off 5000 explosions in an attempt to find ‘images of natural gas’ under Nine Mile Canyon in Price, Utah. The inconvenient fact that Nine Mile Canyon happens to contain caves with 1000-year-old Anasazi drawings on its walls like these–

–is of no importance for them. But it is to Blaine Miller.

PRICE, Utah – Blaine Miller, a quiet, slow-talking 57-year-old archaeologist, has made a career of studying the haunting scenes of net-wielding hunters and sinuous horned snakes on the smooth rock faces of Nine Mile Canyon near here. His colleagues consider him a leading expert on the 400- to 1,500-year-old images etched and daubed on the canyon walls. But Mr. Miller’s bosses at the Bureau of Land Management barred him from evaluating recent proposals for natural gas exploration around the canyon after a gas company executive complained about his work.Mr. Miller said he had sought more stringent protections for the rock art than the government eventually required. His bosses said he had the appearance of a conflict of interest.

‘Conflict of interest’. Right. His interest in preserving an irreplaceable archeological site ‘conflicted’ with Barrett’s interest in blowing it up to–maybe; they’re just ‘exploring’–make a buck.

Last July, the manager of the Price field office of the Bureau of Land Management sent out a memorandum saying that the evaluation of an energy exploration proposal for Nine Mine Canyon by the Bill Barrett Corporation, a Denver gas exploration and development concern, was its “No. 1 priority.”

Mr. Miller was not allowed to participate in the seismic evaluation after his work on an earlier Barrett project was called into question. The Price office of the agency, where Mr. Miller has worked for two decades, is divided over his treatment; outside archeologists are concerned. Kevin Jones, Utah’s state archaeologist, said in an interview: “If the person who knows the most is taken off the project, it sends the message that perhaps he knew too much. Perhaps they didn’t want to hear what he had to say.”Duane Zavadil, Barrett’s manager of government and regulatory affairs, said Mr. Miller had been an obstructionist, overestimating the impact that the company’s proposals would have on the art, which the government is required by law to protect. Mr. Zavadil said the art, in places, had been “highly compromised from its original condition” by vandals long before Barrett arrived. He said Barrett had already taken steps to protect it, for example suppressing the dust on the dirt road through the canyon.

“I was uncomfortable with not only his performance but his attitude, his opinion about oil and gas,” Mr. Zavadil said. “It was very clear what his opinion was and that he was deeply, personally interested in those resources and really didn’t have any objectivity.”

Ah, yes–‘objectivity’. Mr Miller wasn’t willing to risk the destruction of ancient Native American art that belongs to all of us for the sake of furthering private corporate profits belonging only to Mr Barrett, so Mr Miller is therefore ‘not objective’.

Don’t you just love the way these guys define everything they want, no matter how destructive or venal, as an ‘objective good’ and everything that gets in the way of their profits as ‘non-objectivity’?

Miller is doing the job he was supposedly hired to do.

Mr. Miller’s employer, the Bureau of Land Management, which is part of the Interior Department, is charged with balancing the need to exploit energy and mineral resources against the need to preserve cultural and environmental bounties. The bureau’s approximately 200 archaeologists must inventory and decide how to protect cultural resources. They also assess whether a site merits inclusion on the federal government’s National Register of Historic Places. Nine Mile Canyon’s archaeological complex is a candidate for this designation.

Oops. Once the canyon is on the register, which it inevitably will be, resource exploitation will be off the table. Barrett is engaging in a simple swindle, using the political power he can buy for a song in an ultra-conservative state like Utah to sneak in under the wire and do what he knows he will soon be forbidden to do: blow the place up for the natural gas he thinks may be under it. There is, after all, a lot of money at stake.

Barrett’s financial appraisal of the area’s gas reserves, whose initial development will cost it an estimated $80 million by the end of this year, suggests there are 50 billion to 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the 57,500-acre project area. In April, Barrett registered a $172 million initial pubic stock offering; the more proven gas reserves a company has, the higher the value investors are likely to assign to it.

With that much loot hanging in the air, the BA took the case over in March.

Official interest in Barrett’s project has been palpable. In March, a top official in the Washington office of minerals, realty and resource protection inspected the site. A bureau spokeswoman said that the inquiry into Mr. Miller’s possible conflict of interest was largely handled in Washington.An Interior Department spokeswoman, Tina Kreisher, said the agency could not comment on the specifics of the case. But a department ethics official said that if a government employee or a close relative helped run such an organization, the employee’s work should not involve issues of concern to the outside organization without special dispensation.

The ethics inquiry began in June 2003 after the field office rejected an environmental assessment of Barrett’s first proposal for drilling seven wells.

The explanations for the rejection vary. Some bureau employees, who would not speak on the record for fear of retaliation, criticized the Barrett environmental document’s overall quality.

Patrick Gubbins, the bureau office manager, said, “There was a myriad of reasons that I didn’t feel comfortable going forward with it.” (emphasis added)

Note that ‘Washington’ was only interested in Barrett’s accusation that Miller had a ‘conflict of interest’, not in the bureau office’s accusation that Bartlett’s environmental ‘study’ was seriously flawed. They were apparently not concerned about that.

Once again the Bush Admin proves where its priorities are:


Liberals Are Back

FITE Newsletter #28

After suffering more than a decade of attacks for their belief that government services in private hands is bad for Americans, the tide is probably turning for liberals. That is a conclusion we draw from a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. (subscription only) More Americans now self identify as Democrats than Republicans after two years in which the opposite was true. But more astonishing, in only ONE MONTH the percentage of people self identifying as liberals has increased by nearly one third, from about 15% to 20%.

This is all the more astonishing given that the right wing has managed with relentless propaganda during the last 15 years make liberal into a curse word. It got so bad that even liberals themselves were afraid to call themselves that.

This reemergence of self described liberals together with the 2-years-long growth of self-described Democrats strongly suggests that Americans are getting fed up with right wing attempts to gut vital government services.

We can probably thank the fact that the right wing was given nearly dictatorial power in Washington to implement their radical program of privatizing all essential government functions. It is now possible for the public to clearly see that privatization of government services is mostly, maybe even always, is simply by another name.

It was, after all, a privatized security personnel that implemented the Abu Ghraib atrocities. In the interests of quickly fattening their bottom line, they recruited people with no experience in interrogation. They even hired a truck driver in one case who earned $1,000/day to “interrogate” prisoners who the Red Cross says were mostly innocent. (Coalition forces told Red Cross officials that 70% to 90% were innocent.)

On the home front CBS News broadcast this week an equally shocking revelation. It is now clear that Enron, a corporation that made billions privatizing the utility industry, knew it was actually savaging California grandmothers four years ago when its traders engineered astronomical increases in electric rates. Tapes from the trading room document the conversations of traders cursing the fact that they might have to give back the money they stole:

“They’re f——g taking all the money back from you guys?” complains one trader.

“All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?”

“Yeah, grandma Millie, man”

“Yeah, now she wants her f——g money back for all the power you’ve charged right up, jammed right up her a—— for f——g $250 a megawatt hour.”

And the tapes appear to link top Enron officials Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to schemes that fueled the crisis.

It wasn’t just Enron. Citibank and others who funded Enron with endless millions knew – or should have known – the effects of Enron policies on the people of California. But quarterly profits took precedence.

The lesson Americans are now learning is that when private corporations perform public functions, corporate interest wins at the expense of the public good.

Charles Palson

Latest FITE Newsletter

Newsletter #27

Re: corruption, taxes, and gas prices

Remember all those tax cuts that “benefited American families?” Most American families saved around $450. But the gains have been more than erased by the more than $500 extra paid annually for gasoline and heating oil. Then again, they were already erased by increases in local taxes and fees in the same time period.

We have explained in previous newsletters how Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts and profligate spending caused OPEC to increase oil prices. But the price of crude is only one part of the story. Refiners are making the biggest profits in a long time, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Bush administration allowed 33 refinery mergers after the refineries dumped $3.5 million into Bush campaign coffers. The mergers translate into less competition and higher prices.

The refinery-Bush love fest will get even “better” if Bush is reelected because the new energy bill, providing some $25 billion in tax breaks, will likely pass after a Bush win.

Democrats Urge Bush To Act on Gasoline Prices

Oil Company Profits Go Through the Roof–Arianna Huffington

At the same time car owners are having to consider taking out a second mortgage in order to fill up their tanks, oil companies are raking in record profits.ConocoPhillips, for example, the United States’ largest oil refiner, recently reported its largest first-quarter profits ever. And Exxon Mobil just posted its highest first-quarter refining earnings in 13 years.

Coincidentally, these companies and their oil and gas industry brethren have a highly profitable habit of greasing the receptive palms of their friend George Bush—doling out more than $3.5 million to his 2000 and 2004 presidential runs.

So for American consumers, payback is a bitch. And over two bucks a gallon at the gas pump.

–Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The tax-cut package the President signed into law May 28 carries an “official” cost of $350 billion through 2013, but does so only through the massive use of budget gimmicks. Every provision in the bill but one expires between the end of 2004 and the end of 2008, and most or all of these provisions are nearly certain to be extended. If the provisions are extended, the cost of the legislation through 2013 will be $807 billion to $1.06 trillion.[1]In addition, the bill is heavily tilted toward the upper end of the income scale, with households that make over $1 million a year receiving an average tax cut or $93,500 in 2003, while households in the middle of the income spectrum receive an average tax cut of $217. Some 36 percent of households will receive no tax cut at all; 53 percent will receive $100 or less. Because the bill provides the preponderance of its tax cuts to higher-income tax filers, a group more likely to save rather than spend its tax benefits than middle- or low-income households, the bill also is likely to be highly inefficient in boosting the economy in the near term.

Charles Palson