Greasing the pig

Does the Bush administration’s footloose way with lucrative reconstruction contracts in Iraq make you wince? Wait till you hear about his energy bill.

The war has been a windfall for companies such as Halliburton, which Vice President Cheney headed up in his last job, and Bechtel, once run by George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan. They’ve won huge no-bid reconstruction contracts there, are able to operate virtually without oversight, and stand to make a killing—even more so now that Congress has approved an additional $87 billion for Iraq. No wonder both companies give generously to Republican campaign coffers.

Now comes the Republican-sponsored energy bill, a huge bag of subsidies and payoffs that, as we write this, is sliding through Congress faster than an oil slick. And who’s making out like bandits this time? More big corporations with strong ties to the president and his party: large electric utilities, oil and gas companies, MTBE producers and, last but not least, Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), the nation’s largest producer of ethanol.

If the bill passes, which may have occurred by the time you read this, the companies all will profit mightily from legislation designed ostensibly to foster domestic energy production but actually to buck up the energy business. Producers of MTBE (oil companies and refineries, mainly in Texas and Louisiana) will be protected from lawsuits, which means taxpayers will have to clean up MTBE’s pollution messes. Electricity companies will enjoy less regulation and more taxpayer help with upgrading transmission lines. Oil and gas companies will find it easier to drill on federal lands. And ADM will profit from a doubling in the use of ethanol as a gasoline additive.

Since President Bush took office, energy-related businesses have donated $70 million to lawmakers and political parties, with three-fourths going to Republicans, reports the Associated Press. In the 2000 election cycle, they donated $67 million, $50 million to Republicans.

And the Democrats? Well, those from the Midwestern states are on board for this terrible bill. Why? Because the ethanol component is a multibillion-dollar prize for corn farmers as well as ADM. The Demos have been bought off. This bill is like a greased pig, slimy, smelly and impossible to stop.