Taking On Big Oil

I am just ornery enough to think if Lisa Jackson pissed off the dirty energy industry she must have been doing a terrific job as director of the EPA. However, she will be stepping down after four years of scrutiny, second guessing, and downright nastiness from people like the Koch brothers surrounding her attempts to put teeth into environmental protection. As a recent Yahoo news story tells us:

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The past four years of U.S. environmental regulation was marked by a crackdown on emissions that angered coal miners and power companies. Over the next four, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency will have to decide whether to take on an even larger industry: Big Oil.

Following Lisa Jackson’s resignation on Wednesday, her successor will inherit the tricky task of regulating a drilling boom that has revolutionized the energy industry but raised fears over the possible contamination of water supplies.

The battle between the dirty energy industry and environmentalists has been going on for years and centers around the untenable dichotomy: either jobs or the environment. One gets tired of pointing out that we can protect the environment while at the same time we create jobs. But, while true, the statement falls on deaf ears, since when Big Oil says “jobs” it means “profits.” It is clear, however, that clean energy can provide thousands of jobs. It already does. Despite the lack of any solid support from the government, the solar industry, for example, already provides more jobs than the coal industry.

But Big Oil has poured billions into fracking in an attempt to extract cheap oil and gas from underground. It has a vested interest in continuing to exploit the earth and those jobs assuredly are at stake. The problem is that the fracking process contaminates millions of gallons of water — which is going to become increasingly precious — thereby rendering it useless for human or animal consumption. Jackson has said in public that the process can be made safe, but studies now underway will prove whether she was just saying what she was coached to say. In any event, Big Oil has put the screws on Jackson and waits to see who President Obama will nominate for the position she vacates to take a well-earned vacation.

Speculation is that Obama will be reluctant to nominate an environmental “hard-liner” because of the precarious condition of the economy and the fact that the energy industry is one of the few bright lights on the economic horizon, and oil is one of the few bargaining chips this country has to play in the international game of survival poker. But Jackson’s experience has shown that even a strong person may wilt under the constant attacks of the monied special interests who pull the strings in Washington. Compromise is possible if the person heading the EPA is tough enough to stand up to Big Oil with its bottomless pockets. A weak person in that position will almost certainly prove to be ineffective — and that  is something future generations will live to regret. This may prove to be another example of short-term thinking directing political decisions; money provides the fuel. It’s getting to be a tiresome story.

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8 thoughts on “Taking On Big Oil

  1. like a burr beneath a horse’s blanket, fracking seems to be a ticking time bomb,, and it scares me. madre tierra is going to eventually get fed up to what our species is doing to her, and she’s going to give us one hell of a rodeo.

    hopefully she will spare those who tried to defend her honor!
    z

  2. Courage in the face of adversity is not a strong suit of the Obama presidency. Look how little he’s done for the homeowner, while lavishing billions on the big banks. And how his Wall street puppet treasury secretary Geithner blockaded efforts to close weak banks early, such as WaMu and Wachovia. A strong EPA is an absolute requirement if our drinking water, and the air we breathe are of any importance to us and this administration. But I fear that is not what we’re in store for the next four years.

  3. I agree with Barney — if there is anywhere that Obama can really leave a legacy, and it was one implied in both of his campaigns that he would seek, it is in environmental protection and reform. He’s never going to run for election again, so he’s got leverage in that regard to play hard ball and make the right, strong choice with the EPA. But it should extend beyond the EPA to a much more serious and evident guiding force of the administration’s overall policy approach. Good blog, Hugh!

  4. Thanks Hugh. We need the President to be strong for the environment. This is the greatest issue facing our nation and planet and the opposing party is funded by the fossil fuel industry who wants to cripple the EPA and perpetuate non-renewable energy. When I see and hear comments about not leaving deficits for our children, I find much hyrocrisy, as it is OK to leave a heated up, chemical crock pot of a planet which will have palatable water, food and resource battles. To your point on clean energy jobs, there was an article today on NC’s $3 Billion clean energy business which has 15,000 jobs. Take care, BTG

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