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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Countering the GOP Spill Spin: BP Mess is ‘Cheney’s Katrina’

Rebecca Lefton has an important post, “BP Disaster Is Cheney’s Katrina” up at the Center for American Progress web pages. Lefton, researcher for Progressive Media at American Progress, provides a timeline, which provides a convincing rebuttal to the GOP meme that the BP spill is “Obama’s Katrina.” Says Lefton:

BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is without a doubt former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Katrina. President George W. Bush and Cheney consistently catered to Big Oil and other special interests to undercut renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives that would set the United States on a more secure clean energy path.
Oil companies raked in record profits while benefitting from policies they wrote for themselves. These energy policies did nothing for our national security and left consumers to pay the price at the pump and on their energy bills, which rose more than $1,100 during the Bush administration.

Lefton provides a chart indicating that “Big Five” oil company profits, as well as consumer gas prices, doubled during the Bush Administration, and she provides a year-by-year breakdown of Bush-Cheney giveaways to Big Oil, including:

2001 – …President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney–who gave up his title as CEO of oil and gas company Halliburton to take on his new role–with developing a new energy policy swiftly after taking office. But Cheney’s relationship with Halliburton did not end. Cheney was kept on the company’s payroll after retirement and retained around 430,000 shares of Halliburton stock.
The task force report was based on recommendations provided to Cheney from coal, oil, and nuclear companies and related trade groups–many of which were major contributors to Bush’s presidential campaign and to the Republican Party. Oil companies–including BP, the National Mining Association, and the American Petroleum Institute–secretly met with the Cheney and his staff as part of a task force to develop the country’s energy policy.

That was year one. For year two,

Bush released the fiscal year 2002 budget on April 9 that included steep cuts for clean energy research and development: “Solar and renewable energy R&D would drop by more than a third; nuclear energy R&D would be almost halved; and energy conservation R&D would fall by nearly 25 percent.”

R & D funding for biomass, geothermal, and solar energy programs was further reduced by Bush-Cheney for FY 2003 and the Republican -controlled congress provided multi-billion dollar tax breaks for dirty energy, as well as subsidies and loan guarantees. On August 8, 2005, Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which “closely resembled Cheney’s 2001 plan and gave $27 billion to coal, oil and gas, and nuclear, and only $6.4 billion for renewable energy.” Also in that year,

…The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service–the agency responsible for managing oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf and collecting royalties from companies–decided in 2005 that oil companies, rather than the government, were in the best position to determining their operations’ environmental impacts. This meant that there was no longer any need for an environmental impact analysis for deepwater drilling, though an earlier draft stated that such drilling experience was limited. In fact, MMS “repeatedly ignored warnings from government scientists about environmental risks in its push to approve energy exploration activities quickly, according to numerous documents and interviews.” And an interior general analysis even found that between 2005 and 2007 MMS officials let the oil industry to fill out their own inspection reports.

The Bush-Cheney pattern of cuts in funding for renewable energy R & D, coupled with subsidies and tax breaks for Big Oil continued throughout their administration, culminating in their 2008 lifting of the moratorium on offshore drilling, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico and offshore of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. As Lefton notes, “Bush then called on Congress to lift its own annual ban on drilling, as John McCain embraced “drill, baby, drill” that year.”
Bush’s Bungling mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort was the critical turning point for public opinion towards his administration. But, affirming observations made by TDS Co-Editor William Galston back in early May, Lefton makes a compelling case that the BP disaster in the Gulf should forevermore be known as “Cheney’s Katrina.”

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