The Scriblerianne

September 6, 2008

Big Oil and the Republicans are Longtime Bedfellows

Filed under: books,politics — scriblerienne @ 8:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

If you are interested in what role America’s energy problem will play in this year’s election, you need to read Laton McCartney’s The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country Granted, it focuses on events that occurred over 80 years ago, but the story of how a few wealthy oilmen bought Warren G. Harding the Republican nomination in 1920 resonates during this year’s election. 

According to Maccartney’s book, President Warren G. Harding let his new Secretary of the Interior take over the Navy’s oil reserves and open them up for leasing and bidding to only a few cronies.  Some smaller oil companies heard about this and complained about the apparent fishiness of the deal.  A Congessional hearing was begun and despite Republican hostility, national apathy, and the wealth and deceptiveness of several of the defendants, the Secretary of the Interior was indicted, convicted and sent to prison, while some of the oilmen were acquitted.  Other low-level players in the scandal lost their positions or fortunes, or even their lives.

Okay, so why does this matter now?  Well, McCain changed his mind about no drilling in areas such as the ANWR; now it’ the quickest way to lower prices and our dependence on foreign oil.  This apparently occurred after he received a campaign contribution of over a million dollars from big oil interests.  He’s also chosen Sarah Palin, who supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, as his running mate.  Although both claim that their energy policy includes looking at alternate sources, their emphasis on drilling ASAP reveals their real policy.  It sounds like this:


Ask yourself:  who benefits from drilling in these reserves? Supposedly the American people (like you think Big Oil is going to drop its prices now that it has tested how much we will endure?), Alaska, of course, and most definitely the major oil companies.  You know, the same people who made such a timely and generous contribution to McCain’s election.  If McCain is elected President, he bears careful watching when it comes to energy policy.  As Mccartney’s book shows, so much of the dirty dealing in the Teapot Dome Scandal went on under the American public’s radar, simply because the oil barons literally had bags and suitcases of money to buy many Republican politicians’ cooperation and silence.

So read The Teapot Dome Scandal.  Mccartney writes clearly and makes a complicated, potentially dry topic engrossing and understandable.  He focuses on the main characters and they live again, just as hypocritical, greedy, deluded and ambitious as they were eighty years ago.  The Teapot Dome Scandal reads less like history and more like a political thriller, with plenty of sordid details revealing how long the Republican Party and Big Oil have been bedfellows.

Already read Mccartney’s book?  Share your thoughts about it, especially in the light of our coming election.



  1. Do you really have any credentials to sound like like you know something about the oil industry? Have you worked in the industry or for an allied industry?
    You sound like you are just shooting off your mouth about the industry to attack the Republican Party.
    There are only two big oil companies left in the U.S., Exxon/Mobil and Chevron.
    The rest are foreign owned subsidiaries. 80% of the the gasoline refining capacity is operated by Independents.
    The oil industry in the U.S. employs hundreds of thousands of people and has for decades. The federal government, a la our tax and spend congress, which has been controlled by Democrats by about 54 years of the 60 since WWII, currently taxes gasoline, I think 46c/gallon, and this is largely used for pork barrel projects.
    I worked in and with the oil industry for over 40 years.

    Pick a topic next time you know something about.

    Comment by suppose — September 6, 2008 @ 8:57 pm

  2. Thank you very much for your useful information about the oil industry. It was very useful. Things have certainly changed since the early twentieth-century, which is the setting of Mccartney’s book.
    I have never worked in the oil industry nor have I claimed to.But of course, we both know that nobody on the internet ever writes or comments on anything unless they are an unacknowledged expert.
    What I found most interesting about Mccartney’s book was how easy it was for a few wealthy men–oilmen, in this case–to use their money to buy the Republican candidate they wanted and gain exclusive rights to bid on fields reserved for the navy’s use. They did this in a fashion that made a mockery of the electoral process and free enterprise. I can certainly understand that, and I am leery of anything that threatens to reprise that kind of complicity between any kind of industry and our government.

    Comment by scriblerienne — September 6, 2008 @ 10:35 pm

  3. Thank you for your response and for the understanding of the issue.

    Comment by suppose — September 7, 2008 @ 12:31 am

  4. In my response, I should have written, “But of course, we both know that nobody on the internet ever writes or comments on anything unless they are an ACKNOWLEDGED expert.” Just a little dry humor there.

    Comment by scriblerienne — September 7, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

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