Gem of the day

The CEOs of Shell, Chevron and Exxon are showing up in Congress tomorrow to testify (naturally against) cutting their billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. Doubtless the event will be overflowing in gems, but here's just a wee preview of what else has been going on in the background for those who can stomach it:

  • Shell is wading headfirst back into drilling in the Arctic. Their justification: “Outside of the Gulf of Mexico the next biggest resource in terms of scale is Alaska." That's right, not even blinking an eye at referring to the Gulf regon. What about the scale of oil spills, eh?
  • ExxonMobil has something to say about the energy debate on Capital Hill: "All the talk in Washington about how we can lower energy prices by raising taxes on the U.S. oil industry is misleading – and, as the Wall Street Journal noted last week, “junk economic theory.” Who cares? You know what's not junk economic theory? Record profits, no matter where they come from.
Even more excruciating is this deplorable article in Forbes today--where else?--explaining away oil industry revenues by claming Big Oil profit margins "pale in comparison" to those in other industries. No, really. The author, Robert L. Bradley, is CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, one of those ambiguous machines in Washington which churn out reports laden with all kinds of statistics, depending on what suits the political climate. And with a Board of people including fellows from the American Enterprise Institute, who needs a well-rounded perspective? Here's where Bradley's article gets really awkward:

"As the revenues of oil companies improve, so do their stock prices. In turn, teachers, firefighters, policemen and millions of other public servants see their retirement accounts expand. And as most states are struggling to keep their pension programs solvent, oil stocks can help ease that pressure and stave off fiscal woes."

So we're supposed to feel good that the stock prices of oil companies--and therefore the wildly fluctuating price of oil--is what's underpinning the security of our entire economy and society, not just today but in the future?

Bradley's solution is predictable, but even more damning:

"Market-based policy will also promote jobs, investment and income for America at a time when they are most needed."

And when is that time exactly? How's about in ten, twenty years? Then again, there's nothing like policy suggestions from the head of an Institute which believes "government policies should be predictable, simple, and technology neutral."

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