The Scriblerianne

September 6, 2008

Big Oil and the Republicans are Longtime Bedfellows

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


September 4, 2008

Big Oil’s Long, Long Tea Party

Filed under: books,politics — scriblerienne @ 4:12 pm
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I have just picked up Laton Mccartney’s The Teapot Dome Scandal: How Big Oil Bought the Harding White House and Tried to Steal the Country.  So far, it’s very engaging–well-written, clear, pithy, and it makes a dry old topic come alive as a political thriller.  Adulterous trysts in the White House, shootings, double deals, money laundering–this book has it. I’ll be commenting on it more as I digest it.

As I’ve been reading, I’ve realized that the Republican Party has been in bed with Big Oil for a long time.  Now that Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, has become the GOP candidate for Vice-President, we should be looking at her record on drilling, conservation and connections to Big Oil.  Right now, she’s being pushed by the Republicans as a reformer, but is she really?  According to some journalists, we should be careful before we buy that characterization of her.  For example, the Canadian National Newspaper, an admittedly progressive paper, recently published an article about Palin’s connection to Big Oil.  According to its author, Will Yong, McCain was initially against drilling in national reserves, but things have changed:

U.S. oil firms have given John McCain three times more declared campaign money than to Democratic nominee, Barack Obama. Big oil contributions to the Republican Party outweigh oil money to the Democrats by a similar ratio.

In June 2008, McCain suddenly decided that opening up national wildlife reserves was a good idea, even though he had opposed it earlier.  According to Yong, was this his reason?In the month that McCain made his Big Oil turnaround oil and gas industry executives donated USD 1.1m to his campaign – compared with just USD 116,000 in March, USD 283,000 in April and USD 208,000 in May.

Maybe it’s just me reading about fusty old oil barons and one of the most corrupt Presidents in American history, but could those contributions have had anything to do with McCain’s new attitude towards drilling?

Maybe Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate isn’t such a bolt out of the blue after all.  Republicans are touting her as a reformer who stands up to corruption, but she supports drilling first, alternative fuel resources a distant second.   The Houston Chronicle’s analysis of her acceptance speech reveals a dichotomy in her energy policy.  How can you be for more drilling, more gas and oil pipelines, and be against Big Oil?  How can you be an independent reformer and have a husband who works for BP?  These are the questions that should be dominating the airwaves and the blogosphere, not whether she’s a good mommy or not.

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