The event comes on the heels of Thursday's expected vote on a sham Republican lobby "reform" bill (here is a link to today's New York Time's editorial) that fails to change the way of Washington's culture of corruption.
For two years, Democrats have been talking about the problem of corruption in this Congress. We have talked about lobbyists and corporate executives being allowed to write the bills in backrooms with no accountability and no transparency whatsoever.
For your reference I am posting information available in my report, "America for Sale: The Costs of Republican Corruption," which exposes this corrupt Administration's record on energy policy and how Americans are paying a steep price with their pocketbooks.
Please accept my apologies for not being able to lurk in the comment threads this mornings. But as I mentioned last Friday we are going to read every single one of your comments and feedback and do our best to incorporate them in our strategy to confront a Majority Party that has sold out America to its wealthy friends on Washington's K Street and big oil companies. The energy and passion from the communities in the progressive blogosphere give me the energy to get up and fight against the rampant corruption and abuse of power every day in Washington. - LMS
REPUBLICAN TRACK RECORD ON DEVELOPING ENERGY POLICY
The Bush-Cheney energy bill was written by energy executives and their lobbyists, for the benefit of major energy and oil companies, and then rammed through this House by the Republican leadership. They did this while shutting out major Democratic and Bipartisan amendments designed to deal directly dealt with skyrocketing gas and heating oil prices.
One such amendment would have provided a tax credit to low-income families in years where the cost of gasoline has increased more than twice the rate of inflation.
Another would have implemented a windfall profit tax on gasoline (as some of you wrote about in response to my last post), with revenue going toward a tax credit for purchases of efficient vehicles and grants for reduced mass transit fares.
Yet another Democratic amendment which I offered would have prohibited the practice of zone pricing for gasoline, insuring a free and open retail gasoline market.
Other amendments dealt with using supplies in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to address sustained price increases in gasoline or oil.
The Republicans refused to allow any of these worthwhile Democratic amendments to be even considered by the full House. Measures which could have prevented the crisis we are facing today were not even allowed to be debated on the house floor because they didn't fit with the agenda of this Republican leadership.
AMERICANS PAYING THE PRICE OF CORRUPT ENERGY POLICY
CHENEY'S ENERGY PLAN FAILS TO REDUCE OVERALL ENERGY CONSUMPTION IN THE US: Republicans failed to pass the Cheney energy plan in the first four years of the Bush Administration and finally passed it in the first session of the 109th Congress. While the final version of the bill did not contain many of the most controversial provisions Republicans had pushed during the course of the debate, it still contained billions of dollars of subsidies for the energy sector at a time when oil companies were recording historic profits. In fact, according to a 2004 analysis by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Department of Energy, the Republican energy plan will not reduce the overall amount of energy consumption in the United States, and will cause the average gas prices in the year 2015 to be 3-8 cents higher than they would be under current law. [http://www.eia.doe.gov/...]
RECORD HIGH GAS AND HOME HEATING OIL PRICES (UPDATED FROM AMERICA FROM SALE REPORT): According to a report from January of 2006 by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Department of Energy, the average price of gas per gallon would rise to $2.41 in 2006. [EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook, 1/10/06] The pain at the gas pump has been lot worse than the actual projection of that EIA report as the national price for gasoline skyrocketed 13.1 cents over the last week to $2.91 a gallon, the fourth highest average retail price on record. [Reuters, "Average pump price hits $2.91, 4th highest ever," 4/26/06] The EIA report also predicted households heating with home heating oil will likely spend 23% more ($275) for fuel this winter than they did last winter, and homes using natural gas will spend 35% ($257) more than last winter. [EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook, 1/10/06]
RECORD HIGH PROFITS FOR AMERICA'S OIL INDUSTRIES (UPDATED FROM AMERICA FROM SALE REPORT): According to reports today the nation's three largest oil and gas companies are expected to report combined first-quarter profits this week in excess of $16 billion, a 19 percent surge from last year. "[W]ith world oil prices trading around $72 a barrel, analysts say full-year profits for the oil majors are likely to surpass the record-setting earnings of 2005, when Exxon reported a $36.13 billion profit -- the highest ever for a U.S. company." [Brad Fossand Steve Quinn, "Oil companies likely to report record profits" Associated Press, 4/26/06]
AMERICA CONTINUES TO GROW MORE DEPENDENT ON FOREIGN SOURCES OF ENERGY. As a group of concerned national security experts and environmentalists led by prominent conservative Frank Gaffney recently wrote in an open letter to the American people: "America consumes a quarter of the world's oil supply while holding a mere 3% of global oil reserves. It is therefore forced to import over 60% of its oil, and this dependency is growing. Since most of the world's oil is controlled by countries that are unstable or at odds with the United States this dependency is a matter of national security. At the strategic level, it is dangerous to be buying billions of dollars worth of oil from nations that are sponsors of or allied with radical Islamists who foment hatred against the United States." [Set America Free Coalition, "Open Letter to the American People," available at: http://www.setamericafree.org/...
ENERGY/OIL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVES DOMINATING NATION'S ENERGY POLICY
KEN LAY AND BIG OIL WRITE THE CHENEY ENERGY PLAN: Early in the Bush Administration, Ken Lay, the now-indicted former head of Enron, was not only helping write America's energy policy, headed by former Halliburton executive, Vice President Dick Cheney, he was also interviewing candidates for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and recommending the ones who would be most friendly to Enron's agenda. Lay even offered to put in a good word for a FERC Commissioner with the White House if the commissioner changed his policy on electricity competition. [Lowell Bergman and Jeff Gerth, "Power Trader Tied to Bush Finds Washington All Ears," New York Times, 5/25/01.]
COMPANIES SUCH AS KEN LAY'S ENRON CORP. RACKED UP HUGE PROFITS AT CONSUMERS EXPENSE WHILE GAMING CALIFORNIA'S ENERGY CRISIS IN 2000-01: Enron was one of dozens of electricity wholesalers that "allegedly gamed California's haphazardly deregulated wholesale electricity market." California utility customers, hammered by soaring bills, learned how "Enron employees chuckling about how they had forced "Grandma Millie" and other helpless ratepayers to spend more to keep their lights on." "Enron's widely copied manipulation schemes, dubbed such colorful names as "Fat Boy" and "Death Star," pulled billions of dollars from the pockets of California ratepayers and contributed to the rolling blackouts that plagued the state during the crisis." [Marc Lifsher, "Trader's Effect Felt Powerfully in the West, 1/30/06]
CHENEY'S "ENERGY TASK FORCE" MADE UP OF OIL INDUSTRY EXECUTIVES MAKES INDUSTRY FRIENDLY RECOMMENDATIONS: Bush Administration formed an "energy task force" (officially known as the National Energy Policy Development Group) headed by former Halliburton executive, Vice President Dick Cheney. The Cheney task force met secretly for several months and then issued a report in May 2001 making a number of energy industry-friendly recommendations, such as opening protected lands to oil and gas drillers, building hundreds of power plants, and easing some environmental regulations. [Joseph Kahn, "Bush Advisers On Energy Report Ties To Industry," New York Times, 6/3/01.] Although the White House refused to release the names of the industry executives the Cheney task force met with (and even went to court to block a Congressional inquiry), later investigations determined that 18 of the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign's top 25 energy industry campaign contributors attended Cheney energy task force meetings. [Don Van Natta Jr. and Neela Banerjee, "Top GOP Donors in Energy Industry Met Cheney Panel," New York Times," 3/1/02.]
ADMINISTRATION CODDLES ENERGY INDUSTRY THROUGH POLITICAL APPOINTMENTS WHO PROTECT BUSINESS IN FAVOR OF CONSERVING ENERGY: This administration's political appointments from the energy industry have loyally protected big business from any proposal to conserve energy or hold the energy business accountable for environmental harm they cause. The recent Sago mining disaster in West Virginia highlighted the Bush Administration's industry-friendly mining safety policy, which has resulted in fewer safety inspections and fewer fines for safety violations. [Seth Borenstein, and Linda J. Johnson, "Under Bush, Mine-Safety Enforcement Eased," Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/8/06] As former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough (R-FL) recently commented, the Bush Administration's hiring energy executives and lobbyists to fill government positions is like "foxes guarding the henhouse." [Joe Scarborough, "Scarborough Country," MSNBC Transcript, 1/10/06, 10:00 PM EST.]
Following are several egregious examples:
*J. Steven Griles, the former Deputy Secretary at the Interior Department, received payments from his former lobbying firm totaling more than $1 million while acting as the number-two official in that agency. In spite of promising to avoid conflicts with his old firm and clients as a condition of his Senate confirmation, Griles continued to assist the energy and mining industry clients his old firm represented. Soon after joining Interior, Griles held a dinner party for department officials at the home of his former lobbying partner. He also intervened in a case regarding the right of his old clients, Chevron and Shell, to drill for natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of California. [Rick Weiss, "Report Critical of Interior Official; Inspector General Calls Deputy Secretary's Dealings With Companies Troubling," Washington Post, 3/17/04] He helped another old client, Advanced Power Technologies, Inc., win more than $2 million worth of sole-source, no-bid contracts from the Bureau for Land Management (BLM) for aerial mapping work the BLM never requested. [John Aloysius Farrell, "A Fox in Interior's Henhouse," Denver Post, 4/4/2004.]
*In 2002 and 2003, Philip A. Cooney, former oil industry lobbyist and then-Chief of Staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, made dozens of changes to government climate reports that greatly weakened the reports' stances on global warming. Contrary to the findings of the scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, Cooney's changes minimized the links between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. [Andrew C. Revkin, "Bush Aide Edited Climate Reports," New York Times, 6/8/05.] Cooney had no scientific training, but had worked as a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute for more than ten years. As a climate team leader there, his focus was on defeating legislation that would restrict greenhouse gas emissions. [Revkin, "White House Calls Editing Climate Files Part of Usual Review," New York Times, 6/9/05]. Two days after Cooney's revisions came to light, he resigned from the White House and took a job with Exxon Mobil, which has long lobbied against cutting emissions and has continually questioned the risks of global warming. [Revkin, "Former Bush Aide Who Edited Reports is Hired by Exxon," New York Times, 6/15/05.]
*On January 30th, 2004, the Bush administration proposed new industry-friendly mercury pollution regulations for power plants. Reducing mercury emissions is an important public policy goal because mercury can cause serious neurological and developmental damage. A large portion of the proposed regulations was taken, sometimes verbatim, from suggestions drafted by industry lobbyists from Latham and Watkins, a major firm representing utility and energy companies with a vested interest in the regulations. [Eric Pianin, "Proposed Mercury Rules Bear Industry Mark; EPA Language Similar to That in Memos From Law Firm Representing Utilities," Washington Post, 1/31/04] Instead of requiring coal-burning utilities to use the best possible technology to reduce their mercury pollution (as was discussed in earlier in the rulemaking process), the final Bush rules imposed only a lower standard endorsed by the energy companies. The architect of the new rules and head of the EPA's air policy office was a former partner at Latham and Watkins. [Pianin, "EPA Led Mercury Policy Shift; Agency Scuttled Task Force That Advised Tough Approach," Washington Post, 12/30/03]