Is Clinton Currying Favor With the Oil Companies to Win Texas?

Today's Houston Chronicle has a feature article where both candidates discuss issues near and dear to Houston voters: space exploration and oil exploration. Bowers has covered the space exploration angle at Open Left.

Some interesting tidbits emerge on the oil issue however.  In a bright contrast to the tough talk about reigning in the oil companies she did in New Hampshire, Clinton is now making nice with the oil companies.

Clinton said her White House agenda would include environmentally friendly policies that would create millions of jobs. But she said the plan "also recognizes the continuing vital role of the oil and gas industry," another huge Houston-area employer.

She said she voted for legislation to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico because she backs such projects that have local support and are environmentally sound. Obama voted against, she added.

"I think on that issue alone, I should be able to make a strong case to the energy community" for support, the New York senator said.

Clinton added that energy companies have to be part of a national push for conservation and cleaner energy sources.

Jerome's post on the Oil Accountability Project outlines some of the stakes here. The oil companies have colluded with the Bush administration to systematically underpay royalties owed for taking petroleum off public lands. Numerous whistler blowers have come out and documented the atrocities.

The sad thing is that neither Democratic candidate has publicly pledged to end the corruption. And from hearing Hillary's remarks to the Houston Chronicle it looks like her position at least is up for negotiation.

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A New Fox in the Henhouse

Big Oil advocate and Baker Botts attorney, Gregory Copeland has just been nominated to serve as General Counsel for the Department of Energy. A brief look at his bio on the Baker Botts web site confirms that he has spent his career defending the interests of Big Oil. You'll note his representation of Marathon Oil in multiple cases. It's ironic that, having defended Marathon against charges that they systematically underpaid royalties owed to the Department of Interior/Minerals Management Service (MMS), he is now seen fit by George Bush to perform "public service".

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley spoke out about the cozy connections between the oil companies and those government officials who are supposed to enforce the laws and ensure oil companies pay for drilling on public lands:

"Unfortunately, evidence suggests that the cozy relationships between MMS officials and oil and gas companies have allowed these companies to underreport the resources they remove from federal lands and underpay the royalties they owe to the federal government. Evidence that MMS has failed to detect and pursue these violations by oil and gas companies is especially troubling as gas prices continue to rise, corporations make record profits and average American are struggling to fill their gas tanks and make ends meet."

Not to mention that the "cost" our government charges the oil companies for oil taken from public lands is far from the true cost of that oil, as Darksyde wrote on DailyKos:

What is the true cost of a barrel of oil or a tank of gas for US consumers? Difficult to say. But any holistic number would have to partially factor in the damage done to local and regional water tables from refineries and storage facilities, the gigatons of greenhouse gases and other pollutants released, and the hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars and thousands of lives spent in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East to secure cheap oil. Adding insult to injury, consider the lavish tax breaks and sweetheart subsidies the oil industry and Exxon specifically have received from the Bush-Cheney administration courtesy of We the People.

When the U.S. Government prices oil for sale it's already dramatically undervalued, making the systemic failure to collect what the oil companies owe doubly bad. Bringing another big oil company lawyer to the table -- to represent "We the People" of all things -- is certainly not going to tip the scales to the side of justice.

And in case you forgot, Copeland's firm, Baker Botts, are the people who represented Bush in Bush v Gore, the case that stole the Presidency from the American people.

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"Obscene" Profits Not Enough for Shell CEO

The Guardian (UK) reports on the record profits the oil companies are making. Nevertheless, Shell's CEO is promising investors he's working on plans to keep increasing their slice of the pie. Too much is never enough.

Shell was today accused of making "obscene" profits at a time when pensioners, motorists and industry are struggling with higher energy prices when it unveiled annual earnings of $27.6bn.

The oil major has made British corporate history with the record figures, which are equivalent to more than ($3 an hour) and come at the end of a three month period when crude prices have averaged over $90 a barrel.

Jeroen van der Veer, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, described the performance as "satisfactory" and admitted that overall production for the year had actually dropped 2%.

He said the company had benefited from launching new oil and gas projects but had suffered in the last quarter from weak refining margins.

"We are proceeding with the rejuvenation of our portfolio with investment in new legacy assets and through disposals. The execution of our strategy is on track."

But Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite the union, Britain's largest trade union said a windfall tax should be imposed on "greedy" companies such as Shell whose profits are more than four times higher than retailer, Tesco.

"Shell shareholders are doing very nicely whilst the rest of us, the stakeholders, are paying the price and struggling," said Mr. Woodley. "Record profits of over thirteen and a half billion pounds at Shell and cumulative oil industry profits in excess of fifty billion in the last three years are, quite frankly, obscene. It is time the government acted."

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Where Do Oil Company Profits Go?

Raw Story reports on the surging profits enjoyed by oil companies even as the economy slides into recession.

Unlike oil companies, who take a percentage of pump prices, government gas taxes are fixed so the government does not profit from rising prices, Krullwich reports. Gas taxes make up about a quarter of that extra dollar spent for a gallon of gas, he says. The rest is split among refineries, tankers, pipelines, traders and others who get oil to consumers.

The record prices of 2007, though, were not accompanied by fears of a US recession that are currently reverberating through the global economy. Those fears triggered a drop in oil prices Tuesday to $89.85 a barrel, the lowest it has been for more than a month.

They also feature an enlightening video from ABC News:

In an animated Web video that plays a bit like "School House Rock" without the catchy theme song, ABC News explains where the extra money Americans are putting into their gas tanks actually goes.

"Compared to three years ago, Americans are now paying an extra dollar for every gallon of gas, and if you're wondering where those extra dollars go, well for every dollar you pay, about half goes to the oil company that pumped the oil," reports correspondent Robert Krulwich. Accompanying animation shows a suit-wearing, suspicious looking "oil company guy" tearing away half of a dollar bill.

The short feature is indicative of Krulwich's style; he's been called "the man who simplifies without being simple," by New York magazine.

Watch the video:

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Hillary Going After Oil Companies in NH

Under pressure from both Obama and Edwards Sen. Clinton is letting her inner populist loose. Check out this video from the NY Times of her speaking out about the stranglehold that the oil companies have on pricing power.

Jerome has blogged before about the huge scandals at Bush's Dept of the Interior not collecting the royalties the public is owed by the oil companies for petroleum taken from public lands. I'd like to see Clinton promise to do something about that. Same for Obama and Edwards.

Full transcript of Senator Clinton's comments from the video after the jump.

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