Government and Big Oil sitting in a tree

Well, I'm shocked.

Today, the Washington Post reported that representatives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco, Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met with Dick Cheney's energy task force in 2001 to provide "detailed energy policy recommendations". Even more strangely (right), the Big Oil executives who met with Congress last week either denied being part of the task force meetings, or said they didn't know whether any of their officials had participated.

According to the article, environmentalists had suspected that the oil companies had been invited to the White House, but there was no proof until now.

The task force's activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records.

As some political bloggers have been saying, no wonder the executives weren't sworn in for last week's congressional hearings.
And, Ianqui, I'll up the ante. If you are shocked, well, then I am shocked, shocked, that the Vice President stayed in bed with the oil industry after having left it to assume his present office. The Administration's energy credo remains: "Real men burn oil!"
Might some of the "detailed energy policy recommendations" been, say, tax breaks for oil companies that made it into this summer's energy bill? Well, that might increase energy company profits, but it won't solve the geological facts of the earth moving past peak.
I hope they get the 5 years for lying.

I work for BP, I have to say its cool Mr. Pillari told the truth. Granted, he said 'I don't know', then baicly said I did know and yes. But, atleast it was the most honest.

Prepare to be shocked some more.

There is also some maps floating around from that meeting.

And let's not leave out the "Who gets what list"

I'm guessing this is why some congresscritters want the big-oil guys to come back and testify again, this time under-oath.  Now that they admitted they were there, they can ask them about what was discussed about Iraq.

The "who gets what" list looks to me like a list of foreign companies that were in discussion with Saddam Hussein's Iraq government about oil production in the late '90s.  How is this relevant to the discussions Cheney had with US oil companies?  What am I missing?
So, help me get with the program here. I've never been able to understand why anyone gets upset about this energy task force thing, and I can't understand this latest development either. Firstly, I can't imagine any remotely responsible government defining an energy policy without at least giving a hearing to the major energy companies. It would be ludicrous to proceed without at least understanding their perspective. So why is anyone upset they were there, and why all the secrecy about them being there?

I can understand the environmentalists being upset over being ignored, but I wouldn't have thought they'd be too surprised that a conservative Republican government was going to ignore them.

The problem is that this is supposed to be a representative democracy and that government should be considering more than just corporate greed when formulating national policies. The fact that the meetings were held in secret and now with some of the evidence about what went on at those meetings (preparing to divide up Iraq 2 years before we invaded), it starts to look like Bush is nothing more than a whore for the oil companies, and American citizens be damned (and killed) for the sake of said oil companies.

Now that's probably reactionary on my part but at this point, the Bush administration deserves that reaction based on the inept handling of the entire thing.

For me, the issue shouldn't be framed by suggesting Hon. VP Cheney did or didn't do something shifty in seeking advice from industry, or even that they shunned 'environmentalists;' these truths are evident from his finished product (why waste time meeting with the Sierra Club, if you plan to ignore them in the end?).  The nodus of the issue (as I say, for me) is the fact that we are supposed to believe that puplic policy of the importance that energy has can best be made not only with only industies' input, but induststies' input when they are allowed to be frank in their statements (unvarnished), while we plebs have to not only live with the ramifications of these policies, but cannot know what the unvarnished truth actually is from these people.  To put it more bluntly: what was so important that it needed to be secret? not only secret, but protected so energetically.
That makes a lot more sense to me.
To me it comes down to whether the secret energy policy has a linkage to the Iraq war that followed it.  I am sure there is a connection, but of course just because B follows A is no proof of causality. The Iraq war is one of the costliest (in so many ways) blunders we've ever made, especially coming as it has at or near PO.  And if you count the opportunity cost, perhaps you need to double the dollar value spent on it.  If indeed the Iraq war was discussed in these meetings as an ENERGY strategy, then that means it was probably the highest act of treason ever committed in our history.  Aside for the criminal aspects, it means that the "profits" those oil companies have made of late are owed directly to the American people in payment for the US military serving as a mercenary force for the oil companies, a point I've made in recent posts about the profit issue.  And the failure to invest in conservation and alternate energy strategies may be catastrophic to the nation in coming years - the Hirsch report illustrates the costs of delaying action as the peak approaches.

No, we cannot get the billions spent on Iraq back, they are gone, wasted, but think of the wake up call to the American public if it were shown that this is what it was all about, as I believe.  Would there be much argument left that the coming oil crisis was real?    If the public knew that the Iraq war was really a premeditated attempt to secure ME oil because of impending decline, it MIGHT make people more willing to accept a serious national program, and therefore politicians more willing to propose it.

Far from being typical fat-cat business as usual, there is no more important political issue.

Kind of depends on what they talked about.  If it was an Iraq carveout or a discussion of how to keep gas prices to benefit Republicans, it would be bad.  The secrecy does not bode good things.
It's a basic issue of democracy, and of course free market democracy, isn't it?

Democracy and markets both work best with informed players, and both are subverted when the powerful control information.

What I see as absurd (not here, but generally) is that people with a big belief in markets (current oil prices are purely supply/demand) get turned around, and defend what are clearly non-market and non-democratic events.

To me, it makes a great deal of sense for a market democracy to investigate things in open congressional hearings.  Not only does the goevernment learn, but each of us citizens learn right along with them.

(and of course if Iraq was discussed in early 2001, it takes this concern for democracy to a whole other level!)

P.S. - special concessions are made in US history for such meetings in wartime, but note that these were (AFAIK) peacetime meetings between a few industry and government powerplayers.  This strikes me as different than the proverbial round of golf, or hunting party.
Energy and oil dependence is at the very center of our present dilemma.  This administration and those before it have sat on their butts while the problem has worsened.  Furthermore, our use of energy is connected to our use or misuse of the environment, which. after peak oil, is going to be an even larger issue.

To fashion an energy policy, in secret, with only the players whose interest is profit in the room is stupid.  This problem is everyone's problem.   As some bloggers have pointed out, we presumably live in a democracy.  

The very premise of TOD is public awareness and support to do what we must do.

I am surprised at your position, Stuart.

I'll throw my two cents in as well after agreeing with the above posts.

It seems oil companies are kind of psychotic about alternative energy.  On one hand there is all this data that says nothing can replace oil, NG & coal for EROEI.  At the same time it seems that oil wants no competition in the energy arena by helping craft policy that allows it to keep a lock on profitability over all other options.  

To me that is the heart of the matter.  If oil really is the cheapest energy why are they so worried about a level playing field with respect to taxes and environmental regulations?  Just a question.

Yeah, I agree with those who came before me. 1) Why were the meetings secret (including who participated!) and 2) in a democracy, lots of parties should be brought to the table, and they were left out. Sure, Big Oil should have been part of the picture, but where were the academics, the energy analysts, the financial people, the environmentalists, etc? THAT'S the problem here. We should be suspicious about the fact that the oil execs had to lie last week about whether or not they were present in 2001.
I've always wondered if the Saudis were represented at that meeting.
The energy tasked force talked to companies that produce energy? Wow, I'm shocked. I'd be even more shocked to learn that they talked about oil.
no wonder the executives weren't sworn in for last week's congressional hearings.

It doesn't matter whether or not they were sworn in before they testified, as its still a crime to lie to congress regardless!!  Now its time to make then testify under oath to see how their stories change!

Welcome to the techno-corporate oligrachy... These guys were brought in because they had the expertise. They don't want to admit it because of all the reasons listed above. These oil companies are the only ones who could possibly GET these same contracts if the US were in control. You cannot take Mom and Pop Energy and stick them in the Middle East - it takes a multi-national to handle this kind of stuff, so they got called in to discuss.

The one thing that should be patently obvious from this is that the current administration is well aware of Peak Oil, and their response is to control what is left using our military presence to guarantee we are never embargoed again. Bush, Koizumi, Blair and others have made it plain we are willing to bleed to control oil supplies. This is not lost on the exporting countries - they know we will take what we want when we have to, so selling it is a much better alternative.

Isn't this self-evident, even if it is distasteful, repugnant and unAmerican in the traditional sense?

OK then, as I said in my response to Stuart above, why were Cheney and the oil companies so intent on keeping the meetings secret? If things had been done out in the open, maybe I would have agreed with your position.
I think what GeoPoet is suggesting is that the energy task force might have been discussing how to handle oil production after an invasion in the Middle East (back in 2001). If anything like that were true, it would be explosive of course.
this aticle covers a lot of that territory.
Hmmm.  That does rather smell, doesn't it.
Again, self evident - it is distasteful, repugnant and unAmerican in the traditional sense. This is a very greasy political football...
If this Energy Task Force meeting merely involved an appraisal of the energy situation by the major oil companies plus recommendations regarding future energy policy, fine.  But if, as many now believe, a purpose of the meeting was how to carve up Iraq's oil reserves after a war of occupation, then that would make the oil company executives co-conspirators in an arguably illegal war.  Some might go so far as to say that would make them fellow war criminals. (When one looks at the  criteria used in the Nuremburg trials, this is not as far-fetched as it may sound.)

The fact that the meeting was totally secret, that the Bush people went to extraordinary lengths to hide even such basic information as the identities of the parties who attended the meeting makes the whole thing look rather sinister to me.

I also understand that some of the executives who testified stated that they couldn't recall whether any of their representatives were at the Task Force
 meeting. You mean to say that an oil company CEO would not remember if any of their people went to this extremely important top level White House meeting. Give me a break!

Furthermore, while oil men could give valuable insight on the oil situation, do they not have an inherent conflict of interest regarding such issues as conservation and alternative energy? How is it in an oil company's financial interest to promote conservation of alternative energy?

Quite frankly, I don't like the way this whole thing smells.  

joule -

Nobody likes this - it is repellant. It is unAmerican except in the strictest sense of survival. But as a government leader, you have to call on the experts when out of your depth. Bush is no oil man - he's a complete failure in that arena. He is at least smart enough to realize that, and knows the tentacles that the majors have into all these areas, and that they know what is going on.

I don't agree with the Iraq thing - it was reactionary, and ill-conceived. But we are stuck with it now, as our first Peak Oil move on the chessboard. At least it was a strong move...

Yes, but as in chess, a 'strong move', if you overextend yourself, can often be a thorn in your side and turn out to be your eventual downfall.  

How long is it going to take the American people to realize what a debacle we have embarked upon?

Why is it that the private sector worries if a project is several million over budget, while the federal government spends billions like they're nickels?

It almost seems as though we are dealing in two totally different currencies - one for the private sector, and another for the federal government. Unfortunately, we all get to pay for both.

Well, I've belatedly reviewed this thread just now, so I don't know whether this post will be widely read, but for what it's worth:

  1. Does all this not suggest that there may be more of a factual basis to the case made by conspiracy theorists such as Ruppert than many who have an a priori suspicion of conspiracy-theorizing might have thought?

  2. Once again, I raise the question: What does Matt Simmons know about all this?
A few observations on Iraq and the energy task force.

Regime change in Iraq became overt policy late in 1998 (Iraq Liberation Act). I also get the impression that before 9/11, Rumsfeld et al hoped to achieve this through a combination of INC forces and US special forces (a little like what happened in Afghanistan), not through invasion and occupation by the regular US Army.

I say this because some people (more so elsewhere than here) are evidently entertaining scenarios like: Cheney saw peak oil was coming, said we'd better establish control of the world supply by occupying Iraq, and sat down with the oil majors to plan the administration of the new Middle East.

What is really missing, in such an attempt to guess the deep politics of the situation, is a sense of history. Great-power politics in the Middle East have involved oil at least since the 1920s, long before there was a world economy based on the substance; it seems that Churchill intended for Iraqi oil to power the imperial British navy, and British access to it was therefore a factor in the design of the post-WWI settlement. One may assume that from that time until the present day, oil has constantly been a factor in the strategic deliberations of the great powers, first as a militarily useful resource, and now as the lifeblood of all modern industrial societies.

Looking at the USA's three big wars since WWII - Korea, Vietnam, Iraq - I am struck by their location relative to the sea-lanes around the Eurasian perimeter, by means of which the East Asian economic miracle was supplied with the Middle Eastern oil that powered it. First there's a war in East Asia itself, then in South-east Asia (a chokepoint on the sea-lanes), and now in the Middle East. The locus of conflict has slowly moved up the 'supply line', and since 1973 has been centered at its source. I doubt that one can really understand the geopolitics of oil without first understanding this history.