Monday, June 30, 2008

"Big Oil": why they make a lot of money without doing what we think they ought to do! Damn them!

As we all know, politicians rank somewhere between used-car salesmen and lawyers on the credibility sale. But what to do with this kind of lying?
ExxonMobil “only spent $10 million on renewables last year,” House Energy Independence Committee Chairman Ed Markey (D., Mass.), moaned June 22 on ABC’s This Week.

“I am very angry, frankly, at the oil companies,” presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) said June 12. “Not only because of the obscene profits they’ve made, but their failure to invest in alternative energy to help us eliminate our dependence on foreign oil.”

“We are forcing oil companies to change their ways,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) told journalists May 7. “We will hold them accountable for unconscionable price-gouging and force them to invest in renewable energy or pay a price for refusing to do so.”

"Obscene" profits? "Unconscionable price gouging"? These politicians know that what they are saying isn't true, but that doesn't stop them from trotting out a boogeyman to distract the public from the real problem with domestic energy production -- Congress is not letting oil companies, coal companies, power companies, and the like do what they do best, which is develop new technologies or utilize property to generate energy. We know this, the politicians know it, and the oil companies damn sure know it. Sure, an oil rig is ugly (to some -- I think the rigs are incredibly cool), but it is also a safe and effective way of producing energy domestically, which in turn has the effect of our becoming more energy independent.*

Now, I take issue with the article linked above, but only for one reason: the oil companies investing in alternative energies aren't doing so from the goodness of their hearts, as that article implies (he may not have meant that, but it does appear to imply that). They are investing for the same reason anybody else invests in new technologies -- to make money, either from the technology itself or from the goodwill generated by the projects. And, as Martha would say, that's a good thing.

So what the politicians want to do is force these same companies, which are investing billions of dollars in alternative sources of energy, to contribute more to the effort. All the while Congress can sit back as energy prices rise and rise, and say "well, we're making Big Oil pay for alternative energy research, so we've done all we can do."

Worse still, a huge segment of our population will like them more for it.

*As I understand Obama's position, since it will take 10 years or so to get things going enough to make a difference, then we ought to spend our money on ethanol and other alternative fuels. Maybe he's right, but I don't think so. We can't possibly grow enough corn/switchgrass/other stuff to meet even the goals GWB set. It's also dirtier, a less effecient use of food-producing land, and does nothing to support at least one of the goals of energy policy -- reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

** I don't really get McCain's position on this either -- open up offshore leases again, but don't touch ANWR? Seems a bit daft to me.

Me, I like solar power. In the South (and probably elsewhere), everybody who has the money could generate at at least a portion of their own power on their roofs--if I ever build a house again, I'm gonna install some solar panels for the lights and such. Should be fun. And hideously expensive.