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Taking on the Oil Barons – an early task for President Obama!

I wonder if the senior management of Shell and the rest of the western oil multinationals are quaking in their shoes following the election of Barack Obama. They should be!

From my own experience I know that Shell was a supporter of George W Bush and his malevolent regime from the start, although they will of course deny that that was the case! One of the many hypocrisies of Shell’s “Business Principles” was the one that said that they did not support political parties. In fact Shell in the US was a contributor to the Republican Party during the Bush years – albeit that this support was not transparent. I was told in Houston that donations were made to Republican front organisations not just by Shell but by all of the Houston based energy corporations – hardly surprising of course as they were all “palling up” , to coin a phrase, to the Bushes, themselves oil men of sorts, for years. Many of the American leaders of Shell were fully paid up Country Club Republicans and they were enthusiastic supporters with their fellow members of the Oil Barons Club (like the Enron crooks) with the Republican Party in Texas and elsewhere.

Few now doubt that the war in Iraq was driven by Bush’s determination to get his hands on Iraqi oil on behalf of his oil corporation friends – the recent deals in Iraq that have favoured western oil companies, including Shell, are clear proof of this. Expect this process to be accelerated in the couple of months before Obama takes over – not least in an attempt to tie Obama’s hands on the timing of troop withdrawals. The presence of Western oil companies in Iraq can only go ahead if Uncle Sam is there in substantial military number to guarantee the deals. One can hear the strident voices from the NeoCons who will no doubt say that Obama must keep substantial forces in Iraq in order to protect American national interests (= special access to Iraqi oil!). I doubt that Obama will fall for this.

The other reason for Shell and the rest to be worried is, of course, that under Obama the US will focus in a determined way to reduce America’s dependence on oil. This won’t be by following Sarah Palin’s facile and ignorant call to “Drill, Baby, Drill” but hopefully by putting together a comprehensive energy plan in which all available primary energy sources are encouraged and within which environmental concerns play a key part. Remember how George Bush ridiculed Global warming at the time of the 2004 election? He approved a statement which said that global warming had “not been proved”, air quality was “getting better”, the world’s forests were “spreading, not deadening”, oil reserves are “increasing, not decreasing”, and that the “world’s water is cleaner and reaching more people”. Comfort to the oil Barons no doubt but garbage – and now shown unequivocally to be so. Expect President Obama to bring Al Gore into his tent to help him pursue a genuinely environmentally responsible Energy agenda.

The irony of the Enron scandal and of other dysfunctionalities amongst the Oil multinationals (like Shell’s reserves fraud) is that although the American courts pursued the blameworthy resolutely you never really felt that the social and economic power of big oil was being properly tackled by Bush – hardly surprisingly of course given his background. Expect Obama to turn quite soon to a review of the regulation and controls and restraints on corporate America, including the oil majors most of whom have a licence to print money at a time of high Crude Oil prices. Profits accrue without any direct connection to good governance but simply because of the in-built cause and effect of the oil majors’ structure which gives a direct profit increment every time the Crude oil price goes up. Expect Obama to challenge this – maybe even to implement “Tax, Baby Tax” rather than Governor Palin’s preferred alternative! And if at the same time the greed of the leaders of the Oil industry is restrained (Shell’s top man is paid ten times what his predecessor of ten years ago received) then few will shed any tears.

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