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By U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2006, 10:45 p.m. - As prices at the pump are soaring, up from a national average of $1.40
per gallon last May to $2.70 a year later, Exxon Mobil posted revenues of $89 billion for the first quarter of 2006, a company record.  In the same quarter, Exxon dished out $7 billion in dividends and buybacks to shareholders, and lavished money on its corporate
officers, including an outrageous $400 million retirement package for former CEO Lee Raymond.  This came on the heels of having announced that in 2005 Exxon posted the largest annual corporate profit margin in history: $36 billion. Meanwhile, many Americans are facing the choice between buying gas and buying food.

What is wrong with this picture?  Everything.

It did not have to be this way.  Americans find themselves in this situation of energy slavery today because Washington did not listen to
those of us who have consistently stressed the urgent need for an alternative energy policy that would break our dependence on foreign
oil by developing cleaner, safer alternatives.  Instead, Washington listened to corrupt oil lobbyists to keep us just where we are.  Oil
and natural gas industries spent over $300 million lobbying Washington in '03 and '04.  And no politician in Washington has accepted more campaign contributions from big oil than George W. Bush.

Editorial continues below ↓


In 2001, the oil barons met secretly with Vice President Cheney, who for the first time in history allowed corporate executives to write
the nation's energy policy. We also know that the same oil executives were allowed to get away without telling the truth to Congress those meetings. They were given a pass on telling the truth to the American people when Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska blocked Democratic efforts to have them swear an oath to tell the truth. As a result the oil executives hid the truth about their dealings with Cheney, and got away with it. Nobody knows what was discussed because the Vice President refuses to release the minutes of the meeting(s) to the American people.  As oil prices cross record levels, it is all themore important that Americans be able to learn the truth about these meetings.

To add insult to injury, in 2006 Congress will dish out an estimated $80 billion in tax breaks, authorizations and direct spending to
polluting energy industries. Congress should halt the subsidies that big oil now receives and launch an immediate investigation into the
rise in gas prices and gasoline production capabilities in the United States.  The American people deserve to know whether or not gas prices are being manipulated by a legitimate rise in international demand driving up the price of oil or sheer gouging of the consumer.

Since coming to Congress in 1992 I have been calling for decreasing our nation's dependence on oil.  Fossil fuels are non-renewable and contribute to global warming.  Senator Stevens's solution is to rush - Hide quoted text - through Congress approval for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.  The destruction of pristine wilderness areas for the sake of more oil is not the solution, not only because it is highly doubtful that these reserves, once tapped, will have more than a minimal impact on the nation's oil supply, but also because this only postpones the search for alternative energy sources.

Exxon's president has stated that Americans simply "need to accept the reality" of our dependence on foreign oil.  What we as a nation need to accept is that the time has come to break our addiction to fossil fuels and immediately start pursuing alternatives.  Some alternatives can be pursued at once.  We could immediately start a nation-wide campaign to improve energy efficiency, to lower consumption, and reduce pollution.  Expanding the use of hybrid vehicles and bio-fuels and reducing driving times by carpooling or using more public transport could cut our consumption of oil by 3 million barrels a day by 2015.  Cutting subsidies given to polluting energy companies and diverting them to the promotion of wind, solar, and other clean energy solutions could help these alternatives become more economically viable.

Having Bush and Cheney in charge of the nation's energy policy is like having Pablo Escobar in charge of the drug eradication campaign.  Ask yourself whether or not the time has come for a secular energy policy, one that maintains the separation of oil and state.  I say "Amen."

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