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[GreenYes] Bush Administration Oil Industry Ties
Bush's oil links worry watchdogs
Published Monday, Feb. 26, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

Mercury News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- As a White House task force drafts national energy policy,
President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and top administration
officials face conflict-of-interest questions because of their deep
connections to oil and gas companies expected to benefit from the new

Bush's Texas oilman past is well-known, as is to a lesser degree
Cheney's tenure as the highly compensated head of a large energy-related
firm. But a Mercury News review found ties to the industry throughout
the highest levels of the administration, including key appointees who
have served as energy company executives, invested in the field or
received large campaign contributions from it.

Government watchdogs and environmental groups worry that those
connections will lead energy policy to be so dominated by oil, gas and
nuclear-power interests that drilling and production will increase at
the expense of consumers, wildlife, clean air and clean water.

``It's deeper than a conflict of interest. It's the cumulative impact,''
said Celia Wexler, senior policy analyst for Common Cause, a
non-partisan watchdog group. ``You have the people with connections to
industry who are now serving in policy-making roles, combined with the
fact that these were the same people who raised money from energy
interests to give to the Republican Party, combined with the fact that
the energy industry has a really aggressive agenda here, combined with
the fact that all Americans are going to really be affected by the
energy decisions.''

Those decisions could open more federal lands to drilling, including in
the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. There could be a
push for more coal- and nuclear-powered generating plants and for
billions of dollars in tax breaks for energy companies. Indeed, Senate
Republicans today will introduce their energy package, including
spending and tax breaks for the industry totaling about $21 billion over
10 years, according to one taxpayer group. The Senate plan is expected
to be very similar to the eventual policy from the White House task

Sierra Club `concerned'

``The Sierra Club is deeply concerned that this administration's ties to
the oil industry not make it a government of the oil companies, by the
oil companies and for the oil companies,'' said Daniel Becker, director
of the group's global warming and energy program.

Bush and other White House officials dismiss conflict-of-interest
charges, arguing that knowledge of the complicated energy industry will
help them make policy. In naming Cheney to head the Energy Policy
Development Working Group last month, Bush said the vice president's
history with the industry would not lead him to favor it over consumers.

``Dick Cheney is a person who loves America and cares about the future
of the country, just like I do,'' Bush said. ``And he understands what I
understand, that if we don't find more energy supplies to meet the
growing demand in places like California, the consumer's going to pay a
dear price.''

New domestic exploration is crucial to reducing dependence on foreign
oil and on providing the energy necessary to continue the economic
expansion, Bush has said. The White House has seized on the California
electricity crisis as an example of what might happen to the entire
nation if energy supplies do not keep up with demand.

The energy industry pumped $2.8 million into Bush's 2000 campaign and is
ecstatic about the new administration.

Jerry Jordan, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of
America, said he realizes there is a potential downside for his

``I personally think it's great for America, but I realize that some
people think there's going to be some preference for the industry,'' he
said. ``Because everybody knows they understand the industry and know
they've been in the industry. My only concern honestly is that they will
bend over backwards to keep from appearing helpful to the industry.''

The Bush administration has shown no signs of doing that.

Bush, who launched his career exploring for oil in Midland, Texas, has
been clear that the linchpin of his energy policy is increased domestic
oil and natural gas production.

The industry contributed more money to him than to any other federal
candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Energy
Secretary Spencer Abraham, a Michigan Republican, came in third with
$390,548 in his unsuccessful Senate re-election campaign last year.

Cheney and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans both ran energy-related
companies, earning millions of dollars. National Security Adviser
Condoleezza Rice spent 10 years as a Chevron director before resigning
to assume her new post.

Among the others with connections are Christine Todd Whitman, the
administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Whitman owns interests in oil wells in Texas
and Colorado valued at between $55,000 and $175,000. She has promised to
divest of them to meet ethics guidelines. Rumsfeld has between $3.25
million and $15.5 million worth of investments in energy-related
companies. He is divesting himself of many financial holdings but has
not provided details.

Inter-agency task force

Evans, Whitman and Abraham are working with Cheney on the inter-agency
White House energy task force. Although other Bush advisers from the
energy industry are not on the task force, their influence could be felt
in other ways. Rice and Rumsfeld, for instance, are crucial
policy-makers on Iraq and other oil-producing nations.

``You don't want the foxes calculating the strategy for the chicken
coop,'' said Larry Makinson, a senior fellow at the Center for
Responsive Politics, a non-partisan group that tracks political
contributions. ``We know there are a lot of people there with oil
connections, and that's not necessarily bad on the face of it. But it
has great potential for producing government policy that is favorable to
the industry.''

Red Cavaney, president and chief executive of the American Petroleum
Institute, a trade group representing about 500 small and multinational
companies, said national energy policy will not be set by the
administration alone. Congress will approve many proposals, and many
will be implemented by states and localities. In fact, Bush's plan to
open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling is in great danger
of being defeated in the Senate in part because several Republicans are

The new administration's experience in the energy industry ``gives them
a more realistic perspective on the role of supply in the overall
equation,'' Cavaney said.

Fadel Gheit, an industry analyst with the brokerage firm Fahnestock &
Co., said the Bush administration's solution to the energy problems is
to increase supply. By contrast, the Clinton administration sought to
prevent exploration on large portions of federal land for environmental

``Practically speaking, it will make life a lot better for the oil
industry,'' Gheit said of the Bush administration. ``They have been in
their shoes so they can sympathize with the industry.''

The advantages will be greater for the independent producers -- domestic
exploration and production companies -- than multinationals such as
Chevron, Gheit said. Independents do the vast majority of domestic
drilling. Among the tax credits and other incentives in the Senate
Republicans' bill are several aimed at reducing the cost of exploration.

Earlier this month, Jordan's group and some other oil and gas trade
associations met with Andrew Lundquist, the top staff member on the
White House energy task force. Becker, of the Sierra Club, said he's
unaware of Lundquist's meeting with any environmental groups.

``It's a bad sign, but not a surprising sign,'' Becker said.

Juleanna Glover Weiss, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said the task force
will seek input from environmental groups, but could not say whether
Lundquist would hold similar meetings with them.

Wexler of Common Cause said it's important for the administration to
take a broad range of interests into account.

``We know that we have a president who himself has been in the oil
industry, and one questions the wisdom of then surrounding yourself with
people who also were in the oil industry,'' she said. ``We're talking
about issues that really affect all Americans, air and water pollution,
the kind of environmental values we uphold, how much it's going to cost
us to heat our homes. It would be unfortunate if the only people who got
to talk to Mr. Bush are people in the energy industry.''

Peter Anderson
4513 Vernon Blvd. Suite 15
Madison, WI 53705
(608) 231-1100/Fax (608) 233-0011

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