As oil company executives testified to Congress last week about energy policy in the wake of BP’songoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a casual observer may have thought we were transported to an alternate universe.
In one session, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologized to BP for what he called a White House “shakedown” (because President Obama demanded a $20-billion escrow account from the company to ensure that damage claims will be paid). Mr. Barton didn’t just get his politics wrong, he got the petroleum-powered math all fouled up too.
As first suggested in this blog two weeks ago and by many others since, BP may face bankruptcy over this debacle when it goes to court with victims all the way from the Gulf to New England for a growing list of damages.
The President’s escrow account is a prudent measure to ensure that at least some victims are compensated. "Shakedown," however, could apply to what the oil industry has done to the American taxpayer for decades.
In a recent 10-year period, for example, oil companies lavished Congress with nearly $200 million in campaign contributions, and reaped 100 times that that in return from the US Treasury in return, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
Perhaps Rep. Barton was himself a “victim”, shaken down to defend the industry in exchange for the reported million dollars in contributions to his own political campaigns.