Sunday, December 3, 2006

How Big Oil Stays on Top

Almost every American who drives (and for better or worse that's most of us), must pay oil companies for the privilege. And they make a good profit. But it's not enough to sell a product and make the biggest profits in the history of the world.

Today's NYTimes has a big story about one way oil and gas companies continue to steal from us. They drill on public lands and are meant to pay US royalties. One of the Interior Department's auditors, Bobby Maxwell, had been doing his job well for 22 years, recovering hundreds of millions in underreported royalties. A self-described conservative, Maxwell found that agressive pursuit of industry for fair payment didn't fit with the new Bush administration's approach. They refused to pursue his case against Kerr-McGee Corporation. Maxwell was soon "reorganized" out of his job. Fortunately for us, he didn't stop doing his work just because he was forced into retirement. He continutes to pursue Kerr-McGee, now part of Anadarko, as a private citizen. All the major oil companies have joined Kerr-McGee to try and derail Maxwell's suit, but it remains scheduled for January.

Kerr-McGee/Anadarko may be saving up for the possible $50 million judgement in Maxwell's case. It is one oil company absent from the list of contributors to the successful No on 87 campaign in California. The oil and gas companies spent liberally to protect their profits from the California proposal. $3,000,000 from BP (Beyond Petroleum?) on Nov. 1. $2,000,000 from Chevron on October 17. And another $4 million on Halloween. Scary enough? I stopped counting Chevron's contributions not halfway through the report and the total was $19 million. AERA ENERGY LLP, a company I've never heard of, invested over $17 million between Oct 4 and October 27. I guess they decided they were being cheap, so they ponied up another $2.5 million on the 30th. Occidental Petroleum, at least 4.8 million. ConocoPhillips donated at least $3 million. No big surprise, they got the result they paid for.

These mega-corporations, it is not controversial to say, have too much power. As long as we have no choice but to buy their product, their power only increases. To our detriment, as consumers and citizens.