4-02-08 by dugan
I didn’t get time yesterday to post on a House select committee’s grilling of executives from the major oil companies, but as the chairman, Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, pointedly said, "there will be many more." (If you’ve got a question you’d like to have posed to Big Oil, please post it here as a comment or send it along to email@example.com ).
The oil guys didn’t give an inch, defending their record profits and even threatening to reduce "investments needed to continue safeguarding safeguarding U.S. energy security" if Congress dares reduce their tax subsidies to fund renewable energy development. (Exxon V.P. J.S. Simon, in his opening remarks).
The committee members’ attitudes split right along party lines, which isn’t surprising. But not even the harsher critics did much follow-up on the many evasions and exaggerations. BP’s top U.S. executive, Robert Malone, made a big deal of his company’s investments in solar and wind power, for instance. Yet BP, which once greenly branded itself as "Beyond Petroleum" appears likely to sell off its whole renewable energy division, to boost shareholder value.
Exxon did take flak for spending only $100 million on renewables, and that only on research, compared to last year’s $40.6 billion profit. But most of the committee members seemed to think $100 million was Exxon’s yearly expenditure. Nope, it’s only $10 million a year, on a 10-year project at Stanford. And even that comes with tight, controlling strings attached.
Chevron, Shell and Conoco made lots of green noises about their small renewable-energy projects, but weren’t really pressed as to exactly why their retail gas stations don’t sell renewable fuels, particularly E85. (Here’s the reason: Chevron and friends make it forbiddingly hard and expensive to do so.)
Of course, since the oil execs weren’t sworn to the truth, why bother to tell the whole of it?
Here’s hoping that future hearings will feature sworn testimony, that members will use this first session to hone their follow-up skills, and that one of these days the Senate will get around to voting for the House-passed bill to take back some of those oil subsidies. One thing this hearing did prove beyond a shadow of a doubt is that Big Oil isn’t going to turn renewable energy into a competitor to oil.