Despite well-known ties to Big Oil, Bush Administration officials have managed to keep a straight face as they insist that the drive to war against Iraq is motivated only by an effort to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and establish democracy. Tomorrow we'll see what evidence Secretary of State Powell presents to the United Nations. It is not credible that there would be such a strong push for war if there were no oil in Iraq. Oil is power and this is in significant measure a struggle over that power.
The connections between the Bush administration and the oil industry are clear and pervasive. A remarkable 41 members of the administration have ties to the industry, and both the President and the Vice President are both former oil executives. National Security Adviser Condaleeza Rice is a former director of Chevron. President Bush took more than $1.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industries in the 2000 election. The Bush people and the oil moguls do agree with one another in part because they are one another.
With influence like that, it's no surprise that big oil corporations like ExxonMobil (with an annual lobbying budget of nearly $12 million) and Halliburton (the Vice President's former employer) have had an unprecedented role in determining the nation's energy policies. What we don't yet know is whether Vice President Cheney and members of the American Petroleum Institute specifically discussed Iraq in the secretive meetings of the national energy task force, since he absolutely refuses Congressional demands to release many of the task force documents. But we do know that the Vice President's energy strategy casts a growing dependency on oil as an inevitability, recommending "that the President make energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy."
The energy situation we have now is precarious. The United States currently consumes 19.5 million barrels a day, or 26% of daily global oil consumption. With just 2% of the world's proven reserves, the U.S. imports 9.8 million barrels a day, or more than half the oil we consume. Instead of remedying this dangerous dependence with increased fuel efficiency standards and other efficiency measures, the Vice President's national energy strategy propels the country down an even more perilous road that it says will require 17 million barrels of imports a day by 2020, lining the pockets of multinational oil companies while polluting the environment and committing the United States military to continued international hostilities.
The surest way for the U.S. to sustain its overwhelming dependence upon oil is to control the sixty-seven percent of the world's proven oil reserves that lie below the sands of the Persian Gulf. Iraq alone has proven reserves of 112.5 barrels, or 11% of the world's remaining supply, with possible reserves of almost twice that. Only Saudi Arabia has more.
U.S. oil multinationals have been banned from Iraqi oil fields for more than a decade. While French, Russian and Chinese companies are lined up to profitably tap into Iraq's reserves, Bush Administration officials incredulously claim that Iraqi officials installed by the U.S. will independently choose who produces the oil after a war.
Plans are already being laid. The Wall Street Journal reported on January 16th that officials from the White House, State Department and Department of Defense have been meeting informally with executives from Halliburton, Shlumberger, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips to plan the post-war oil bonanza.
The American people have a right to know what is being discussed in these meetings about the oil industry's designs on this gigantic pool of petroleum and what, if any, assurances they are being given by what is supposed to be our government.
Clearly, there is a better means of achieving U.S. energy security. Instead of relying on costly military ventures in unstable countries to ensure a steady source of oil, we need a national energy security strategy that is expeditious, self-sufficient and environmentally sustainable.
Forty percent of all U.S. petroleum demand goes to fuel the country's cars and light trucks. The average fuel efficiency of the nation's passenger vehicles is at its lowest level since 1980. We must and can reverse this downward trend.
President Bush's much-vaunted hydrogen-vehicle initiative will do virtually nothing to improve the efficiency of the 17 million passenger vehicles that will roll off the assembly lines each year between now and 2020, when some hydrogen vehicles may be viable. This is assuming renewable energy is available to generate the hydrogen in the first place.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, conventional technological improvements are currently available which could boost average fuel efficiency standards to more than 40 miles per gallon, including direct fuel injection, variable valve control engines, high-strength lightweight materials, and low rolling resistance tires. In addition, hybrid electric vehicles that achieve 55 mpg are already selling in the tens of thousands in our country. This technology is operational now. But instead of forcing Detroit to adopt these immediately available improvements to today's gas-guzzling fleet, the President is promising Detroit $1.7 billion in corporate welfare gifts to daydream about next-generation hydrogen-based vehicles while doing virtually nothing to make improvements next year and the years after.
Each day, more and more Americans are realizing that the perverse priorities of the Bush/Cheney oiligarchy are driving the war against Iraq. That's why thousands of concerned citizens are demonstrating today at gas stations around the country and in other parts of the world. And that's why, as has been reported, many retired generals, admirals and other retired officers are arguing that this pending war diverts, distracts and is likely to produce "blowbacks" against the safety and security of the United States, not to mention informed internal dissent among military and intelligence agencies in the Bush government that is now being muted.
The demand is simple: Stop this war before it starts and immediately establish a sane national energy security strategy.
This is unprecedented. For a country that proclaims no territorial designs and has no credible external enemy, it is without precedent that we should be spending close to one-half of our federal budget, and growing, on the military.