Ethanol industry buys a top seed and three key politicians

“Besides higher #food prices, however, this form of #government #bureaucrats picking winners and losers in the #energy market is having another unexpected consequence—boosting genetically modified food. #Syngenta, a Swiss-based firm, recently got the go-ahead for sales of its #geneticallymodified corn seeds…”

Ex-Shell CEO Says Big Oil Can Live Without Subsidies

February 11, 2011 Large oil companies don’t need tax subsidies when oil prices are high, a former CEO of Shell Oil said Thursday.

“In the face of sustained high oil prices it was not an issue—for large companies—of needing the subsidies to entice us into looking for and producing more oil,” John Hofmeister told National Journal Daily.

Hofmeister retired from Shell in 2008 and founded the group Citizens for Affordable Energy. He testified to a House subcommittee Thursday on how Egyptian unrest affects oil prices.

Before that hearing, he told Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., in a private conversation that big oil companies don’t need government help. Markey mentioned Hofmeister’s comment in a news conference later Thursday when introducing legislation eliminating $5 billion worth of subsidies to the major oil and gas companies. “He told me that privately [Thursday] but that he would say that in public if asked to do so,” Markey said after the news conference.

The issue didn’t come up in the hearing, but Hofmeister confirmed to National Journal Daily he had said that to Markey. “I told him that my overall position on that topic has not changed from testimony I gave back in 2008 when we had the very high gasoline prices,” said Hofmeister, who testified in several hearings during the spring and summer of 2008 when he was CEO of Shell. He noted that other executives of major oil companies who testified then echoed the sentiment.

Hofmeister’s comments come at a time when Democrats in both chambers of Congress are calling out Republicans for their continued support for the subsidies while pledging to slash funding in almost every area of the federal government. Republicans have not and almost certainly will not cut the subsidies despite this political pressure. The GOP and the American Petroleum Institute say that the subsidies are necessary so jobs in the industry aren’t lost or shipped to other countries.

For the major companies like Shell, Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Exxon, that doesn’t appear to be true.

Hofmeister said the range at which large oil companies don’t need subsidies is around $70 a barrel or higher. Brent crude oil closed Thursday at slightly higher than $100 a barrel.

“The fear of low oil prices drives some companies to say that subsidies should be sustained,” Hofmeister said. “And my point of view is that with high oil prices such subsidies are not necessary.” Hofmeister stressed that he was not talking on behalf of Shell or any other oil company.

“If prices revert to very low levels, it may take such subsidies to keep drilling,” Hofmeister added.

He also pointed out that small companies need the subsidies at all times. “Independent companies operate under different economic parameters and generally don’t have the resilience and a big expensive well that they can depreciate quickly.”

To that end, Markey’s legislation, which is co-sponsored by other House Democrats including Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., excludes small, independent companies. Yet Hofmeister said that proposal would be illegal since it targets specific companies over others.

“I think that’s discriminatory,” he said. “It’s a much more complicated subject. Any bill that is discriminatory against specific companies would be found to be illegal.”

Hofmeister made headlines this month when he predicted gasoline prices could reach $5 per gallon by 2012. His prediction is only getting closer in light of heightened unrest in Egypt and President Obama’s continued push for what Hofmeister sees as a backward offshore drilling policy.

“If we stay on our current course in this country where we refuse to drill, we make it even more difficult to acquire new leases in this country coupled with international turmoil, the current path is only aggravating that and making it worse,” Hofmeister said. “We could reach that [$5 gasoline] sooner.”


Egypt protests reveal hypocrisy of bipartisan foreign policy consensus

The response of the US political establishment to the popular uprising in Egypt reveals the hypocrisy of a long-standing bipartisan foreign policy consensus.  Unlike Democrats and Republicans, Greens and Libertarians are united in their support for the people of Egypt in their fight to topple its oppressive regime.

The protest movement that erupted in Egypt over two weeks ago aiming to topple the nation’s authoritarian regime, headed by Hosni Mubarak, immediately captured the attention of the global media and heightened an acute contradiction in the decades-old foreign policy consensus of the US political establishment.  Rhetorically, the bipartisan Democratic-Republican party consensus stands for the expansion of freedom and democracy across the world.  In actuality, however, Democratic and Republican administrations alike have consistently supported repressive and tyrannical governments with massive amounts of foreign aid.

Hosni Mubarak assumed the presidency of Egypt in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar El Sadat.  The government of Egypt has imposed “emergency rule” on its people more or less continuously since 1967.  Under this law, the country’s president has free reign to restrict the freedom of assembly and speech, police are empowered to search and seize any individual at will, and the government has the authority to arrest and imprison citizens indefinitely without trial.  Among the primary demands of the protest movement in Egypt are the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, the repeal of the emergency law, and the implementation of legitimate constitutional reforms.

The United States has provided between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt every year since 1979.  The untoward uses to which such aid is put became apparent when the state’s police forces sought to quell the January 25th uprising and launched all out attacks on protesters.  As ABC News reported on January 28th:

“Egyptian riot police are firing tear gas canisters bearing the label “Made in U.S.A” against street demonstrations in Cairo.”  The article continues, “the protesters see U.S. aid as the key that allowed President Hosni Mubarak to hold power for almost thirty years.”

The contradiction between the rhetoric of the US political establishment regarding the promotion of freedom and democracy abroad, and the reality of the bipartisan Democratic-Republican foreign policy consensus in support of dictatorial regimes, has been apparent for quite some time.  As George W. Bush stated in an address to the United Nations General Assembly in 2004, “For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused, oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability.”  The disconnect persists, however, and is obvious in the confused response of the Obama administration to the events unfolding in Egypt.  Administration officials and emissaries continue to express support for both Mubarak and the protest movement that seeks to topple his government.  On the other side of the duopoly divide, Republicans are equally conflicted about the popular uprising half a world away.

Unlike the Democrats and Republicans, the Green and Libertarian parties have both taken an unambiguous stance in support of the Egyptian people and against the bipartisan Democratic-Republican policy in favor of foreign entanglements with corrupt and repressive regimes.

Green Party leaders declared their support for non-violent protesters in North Africa and throughout the Middle East in a statement issued late last month.

“The Green Party of the United States supports democracy, here, and throughout the world. We hope that the protesters in Egypt succeed in deposing President Mubarak, and we’re thrilled to see so many young people stand up against dictators,” said Dr. Anthony Gronowicz, a former Green candidate for Congress and a member of the party’s International Committee.

“We condemn the brutal responses to the protests, including police violence and the shutdown of the Internet,” he continued.

David Doonan, the mayor of Greenwich New York and a Green Party member, criticized the US policy of supporting dictators such as Hosni Mubarak.

“The US continues to send the Egyptian government billions of dollars in military aid, some of it now being used by security forces to beat and teargas protesters,” he said, adding, “For true stability in the region, North African and Middle Eastern governments must serve the interests of their own people instead of the demands of the US State Department and western business.”

This sentiment was echoed in a statement released by Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle.  Hinkle declares his support for the Egyptian democracy movement on the basis of the Declaration of Independence.

“My sympathies are with the Egyptian protesters. Our very own Declaration of Independence said that government exists to secure people’s rights, and ‘whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government,” he wrote.  Hinkle then calls on the US government to cease “foreign meddling.”

“In almost every case, U.S. intervention has made American taxpayers poorer, and it has usually served to entrench corrupt authoritarian rulers,” he stated, calling for an end to such “aid.” “Libertarians call for the U.S. government to stop interfering in the Egyptian crisis, and to end foreign aid to all nations, including Egypt.”

Those who continue to advocate US intervention and aid in every corner of the globe in the supposed interest of promoting freedom and democracy abroad might consider revisiting George Washington’s farewell address and reflect on the state of freedom and democracy at home:

“The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”