Yesterday, like most mornings, I spent 33 minutes on the elliptical trainer in my apartment exercise room. As a way to distract myself and multi-task, I watched the morning news. During that 33-minute time span, I watched 3 advertisements asking the American consumers to tell Congress that higher energy prices would be bad for the economy, and that an increase in energy taxes is simply untenable in these hard economic times. Interestingly enough, I didn't hear them yesterday morning, or last week, or for the few weeks before that. They only surfaced when talk about an energy bill began. On Monday, we heard that the Senate would be reconsidering energy legislation, and Tuesday morning, I see three ads in 33 minutes. Amazing coincidence, don't you think?
So who is responsible for these ads? Two were from the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the interests of all the big oil companies in Washington. It was obvious to me why the American Petroleum institute would be against any bill that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It would cut their profits. It's the greed motive, pure and simple. If Americans reduce their need for gas and oil, then big oil watches the need for their product decrease.
The other ad was from an organization called "Co2isGreen.com." If you go to their website, it is very difficult to tell just exactly who they are -- it says that they are a pending 501c3 organization -- but it doesn't say who founded the organization or who is behind it. However, they posted on their site video of H. Leighton Steward speaking from their position. Who is he? Well, in addition to being a director of EOG Resources and earning nearly half a million dollars per year to sit on their board, "Mr. Steward is former Chairman of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association and the Natural Gas Supply Association, and is currently an honorary director of the American Petroleum Institute." (Forbes.com, 2010)
Let's just face facts. The oil and gas companies are going to pull out all the stops to try and kill any bill that will ultimately result in any reduction of America's dependence on fossil fuels. They will talk a good game, they will use tag lines like "Beyond Petroleum" to make consumers think that they are really "green" companies who are interested in more than petroleum. But don't be fooled. They are interested only in their corporate self-interest, not the environment, not the taxes that you pay, not the economy. They will tell you that they care about all those things, but the facts do not bear this out.
So what can we, as educated information consumers do? We can decide that we need real progress on an energy bill that will promote renewable energy, protect the environment, reduce CO2 production, and provide Americans with real choices. We need to tell Congress that never again do we want to see oil spilling into our water because we let our greed outpace our ability to safely extract it. We need to demand movement on an energy bill that will provide relief to the Gulf and put us on a path to a cleaner energy future.
The oil and gas companies have been fighting this change for far too long now. We need to let Congress know that their old tricks won't work on us anymore.
Rev. Jennifer Kottler is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at Sojourners. A long-time advocate for justice, Jennifer has served in advocacy ministry for more than seven years through her work at Protestants for the Common Good (Chicago, IL), the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, and the Chicago Jobs Council.