Meet Congressman Joe Barton, drilling tool. Joe has a long and sordid history as an energy industry lackey and apologist. Like a lot of bought-and-paid-for Texas politicians, he is a very vocal proponent of the “Drill, Baby, Drill” delusion.
But today Oilcan Barton exposed himself as a member of an even more thoughtless, uncaring and selfish group – the “Shill, Baby, Shill” cabal of traitorous legislators who represent only the multi-national corporations that own them.
During a much-deserved Congressional grilling of BP CEO Tony Hayward, Barton stooped to a new low even for him with this reprehensible apology:
“I am ashamed of what happened at the White House yesterday. It is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown – in this case a $20 billion shakedown.”
No, Joe, a tragedy of the first proportion is the death of eleven young men and injury to many others; a tragedy is the millions of other lives that will be ruined by this disaster; a tragedy is turning irreplaceable marshlands and much of the Gulf into an oil dump; a tragedy is destroying much of the marine life in the Gulf; a tragedy is turning pristine beaches in four Gulf Coast states into no-man’s land.
And the greatest tragedy of all is all this could have been prevented if BP had not – yet again – resorted to business as usual – that is, with a reckless disregard of even the loose safety standards of the oil industry. BP’s modus operandi has long been the relentless pursuit not of perfection, but of profit at all costs – to others.
But Barton doesn’t care about these tragedies any more than he cares about his constituents or his country. What Joe Barton cares about is Joe Barton. During his infamous political career, he has reportedly pigged-out at the oil industry feeding trough, receiving more than $3 million dollars in campaign contributions.
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Barton is apparently too stupid to understand that in essence his apology equates corporate criminality with the free-enterprise system. Someone will surely point that out to him, and upon further “reflection”, he can be expected to issue a “clarification” and a half-assed apology. But no one should be fooled; his newfound “sincerity” will arise only out of political necessity.
In a better world, Barton's disgusting behavior and glaring and grievous insensitivity would end his political career. That would be no great loss to the country, or to Barton for that matter – he would simply return to the same oil-industry viper’s-nest from which he was spawned and feed at the trough as an employee – which is in essence what he is now.
But Texas politics being what it is, even this gross stupidity will not likely be his undoing – not in a state where oil interests have always ruled. Note that industry apologists and some Gulf State politicians are already issuing clarion calls to resume deepwater drilling – even while the renegade well continues to spew millions of gallons of polluting oil into the Gulf.
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Barton and Hayward make easy targets, of course, and both richly deserve the scorn being heaped upon them. But they are not they only ones to blame for this tragedy. We all are. According to Worldwatch:
“The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter of the world’s fossil fuel resources—burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, and 27 % of the world’s natural gas.”
This is not news, and neither are the consequences of that profligacy and dependency. Fact is, we’ve been hostage to oil at least since the OPEC oil embargo during the Nixon administration. Nixon was so desperate to keep oil flowing, he considered invading Saudi Arabia.
Back in the 70’s Jimmy Carter laid-out an energy policy that would have made us much less dependent on oil today. But instead of following that plan, a majority of Americans bought into false promises offered up by Reagan and other glib promoters of Reaganomics, including the promise there really was such a thing as a free lunch – and a free market.
Enter the Hummer.
The energy policies of oilman George H.W. Bush obviously favored the oil industry, but at least he recognized Reaganomics for what it was – Voodoo Economics, and he deserves credit for having the political courage to raise taxes to try and pay for the monstrous deficits incurred under Reagan.
It's hard to say exactly what Clinton might have attempted to do about energy reform absent the millstone of Gingrich, Delay and the Republican majority. But his enthusiastic embrace of globalization led to a giant sucking sound that wasn't just good jobs leaving the country – it was also the energy industry sucking America dry (see Enron for details).
But even George W. Bush, in an uncharacteristic moment of truth, pronounced Americans addicted to oil. Of course, he neglected to mention his role as Drug-Pusher-in-Chief, or that his own energy policy was formulated by Dick Cheney, working in collusion with energy industry insiders like the late, unlamented Ken Lay of Enron.
The centerpiece of the Bush/Cheney energy policy was the Clear Skies Initiative, a double-speak corporate welfare travesty that was little more than a get-out-of-jail-free card for energy industry polluters and corporate criminals like BP and Massey Coal.
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Barack Obama’s energy policy is essentially the same as Carter’s. It promotes conservation and alternate fuels, and punishes those who continue to rely on fossil fuels like oil and coal. Of course, that policy is being fought – tooth, nail and dollar – by energy industry insiders and paid stooges like Joe Barton and Senate doppelganger James Inhofe.
Mercenaries like Barton and Inhofe will not change, so the sensible thing is for their constituents to vote them out of office. But that isn't likely, since all too often being on the Right means never having to admit being in the wrong.
But this isn’t just a battle between Right and Left. All Americans must face the harsh reality created by our short-sightedness and greed. We must stop clinging to our collective delusion that the “free market” will always provide us with cheap energy.
But that doesn’t mean we will.
And that is the final tragedy in the Deepwater Horizon disaster – the sad fact that even a disaster of that magnitude may not be enough to make us change our profligate ways.
©2010 Tom Cordle