Sunday, October 10, 2010

What to Do About Big Oil? Nationalize 'Em!

by Steve Rossignol and Billy Wharton

If there is one lesson to be learned from the massive British Petroleum Oil
Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is that Big Oil has no conscience when it
comes to killing workers and raping the environment in their quest for
profits. In the case of BP, even overlooking the diabolical role they played
in the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh [sp?] Government in
Iran in 1953, the petrolem giant has ignored safety regulations, manipulated
federal regulators, and possibly even had a hand in the parole of convicted
Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in order to curry an oil contract
with Libya.

Civilized nations do not allow their citizens to act in this manner. Why do
we allow corporate giants to do so? The time has come for us to put aside
our dark fears and loudly start saying that dirty word dreaded by Tea
Baggers everywhere: Nationalization.

Once an integral plank of socialist platforms everywhere, the concept of
"nationalization" lost grace in the Seventies in favor of less offensive
terminology, like "socialization" or "workers' control" or some such. The
connection to any sort of state-owned or state-controlled economy was a
boogeyman with which no one dared be associated. All that free-market
stuff, you know. But the reality of government regulation in the so-called
free market is that regulation usually comes as a result of massive
corporate abuse which finally prompts the government to act.

Well, times change, but the oil industry hasn’t. All we have to do is a
look at the latest corporate abuser of the natural world, BP. The outrages
have become such that mere regulation is no longer effective in curtaillling
the abuses of the industry. We need to do more to lasso in the oil industry.

Nationalization (or whatever we choose to call iit) will no doubt raise the
hackles of so-called "free market" folks. But what about that free market?
Guess what. There ain't no such unicorn. When the oil industry cartel can
whimsically escalate gasoline and heating oil prices at will, grant obscene
bonuses to executives at tax-payer expense, generate record profits with
the help of massive government subsidies, manipulate energy futures on the
stock market, fail to build new refineries in order to keep gas prices up,
and flagrantly violate federal regulations, it is time to face the very
real fact that the oil companies are thumbing their noses at the American
people. There is no "free enterprise" here. And the added myth that the
"industry will regulate itself", as we have been told for decades, makes me
rather want to believe in the Tooth Fairy. Polluting companies like BP just
don’t “do” cleanup – there is no profit in it. I could go on and on about
the cardinal sins of these energy giants, but I do not think that there is
much doubt or disagreement about their greed and disregard for the national
good. There is a certain arrogance coming from the petroleum boardrooms
which seems to be saying, "Oh, yeah? What are you going to do about it?"

After all, when the Federal Trade Commission under George W. Bush permitted
mergers which allowed the largest oil companies to get even larger
(ExxonMobil, Conoco-Phillips, Texaco-Shell, BP-Amoco, Valero-Shamrock etc.),
it was rather clear that the stranglehold grip of Oil on America would only
get tighter. It's like a macabre family reunion of John D. Rockefeller's
Standard Oil. The basic lesson of history is that there was a good reason
why Standard Oil was busted up. While certainly no panacea, an immediate
plan of nationalization, perhaps administered congressionally, will reel in
all of the petroleum giants.

Nationalize 'em. That's what I think we should do about it. We as a nation
need to let them know that we are in charge.

There are many good reasons to nationalize the energy industry. Instead of
having Big Coal compete with Big Oil and Big Nuclear, and all of them trying
to strangle alternative energy like wind and solar, we could have a
comprehensive energy policy which would reduce the dependence on Big Foreign
Oil and fossil fuels altogether, all the while graduating towards renewable
energy sources. We would be able to regulate gasoline and heating oil
prices; we would be able to equally distribute supplies nationwide; we would
be able to reduce gasoline prices at the pumps. We would be able to increase
fuel effiiency standards; we would ensure the construction of new refinery
capacity. We would be able to sustain viable employment in the energy
industry, especially with new construction oriented to more energy effecient
and alternative sources. We would further ensure the safety and health of
our working people; and we would make sure that there would be no more Deep
Well drilling accidents in the Gulf of Mexico. It might even get us out of
that oil war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and keep us from getting into another
oil war in Iran or Venezuela.

Basically, we would be able to regulate and ensure supply, distribution,
production, importation and work towards efficient energy consumption.

Obviously there are plenty of details to be worked out, but the main thing
is to recognize that unless there is some sort of immediate central
oversight over the oil cartels, there will be nothing but more problems in
the economy, in the environment and in the survival of most Americans and
the world.

So call it what you want--nationalization, socialization, whatever, but
recognize that it needs to be done. When they are done wiping off those
oil-soaked pelicans in the Gulf, nationalization might not seem like such a
dirty word.

No comments:

Post a Comment