While some of our politicians and fossil fuel barons try, with varying success, to convince us we’re not digging up enough coal, oil or natural gas, the folks who we are told are selling us our oil are busy building a city that doesn’t need it.
For the first time in more than a half-century, the U.S. exports more fuel than it imports. We still are the world’s largest importer of crude oil, but a huge portion of the imported crude becomes exported product, including fuels.
Even within our borders, we are producing more oil than we were just a few years ago, and we are building railroad lines to move coal from the Midwest to California so it can be shipped to China and India. We’re selling natural gas to Europe, and the driving reason Big Oil wants the Keystone XL pipeline expanded is so it can receive Canadian oil and process it into product saleable to Asian nations.
“So much for our dire need for energy independence,” Jacob Nells commented to the weekly coffee shop gathering of the Java Philosophical Society.
“Yes, but the companies are just looking out for the rest of us,” said Mickey Strasbaugh, the group’s tycoon at large. “They want to make sure people have jobs and gas to drive to them.”
“Remember a year ago all the hullabaloo about General Electric making $14 billion profit?” Jacob asked no one in particular. “And it not only paid no federal taxes, We The People paid it $3.2 billion.”
“GE must have provided a ton of jobs that year,” he said.
“There was a quote in the news when that was reported,” Mickey recalled. “The company said it ‘pays what it owes under the law and is scrupulous about its compliance with tax obligations in all jurisdictions.’”
“I could use some of that on my cornfields,” said Nells. “That’s like the Marcellus drillers saying they’re complying with all permits and regulations.
“Trouble is, they spend a spreader load of money making sure there are no regulations,” he said.
“Aye,” said business owner Brian MacDougal, who mentioned a March 2011 news report that said GE spent $200 million lobbying congress in the previous decade.
When the company’s tax team head successfully begged U.S. House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-NY, for extension of some about to expire tax breaks, New York City schools received a $30 million gift.
“Coincidence, I’m sure,” said Nells, “But imagine the profits when a company can give away a $30 million Christmas present to get out of paying taxes.”
“Obviously, there is a lot more money in providing jobs than actually filling them,” said recently laid off middle school teacher Kate Nunemaker. “The company laid off 21,000 American workers and closed 20 factories in the couple of years before 2010. More than half of its workforce – and more than $9 billion of those 2010 profits – were, and are, overseas.”
“Profits and workers aren’t all GE has going on elsewhere, Brian commented, then took a long sip of his favorite morning libation to let the suggestion sink in. “The company is helping build, from scratch, the world’s first carbon-neutral city – Welcome to Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. No cars, no carbon emissions, and 50,000 residents.”
“Why can’t they do that here?” Nells asked.
“Because the marketplace doesn’t want it here,” Strasbaugh piped in.
He pointed out the U.S. House of Representatives voted recently to restore planned cuts to defense spending, cut social service spending to pay for it, and agreed to continue billions of dollars worth of fossil fuel subsidies to Big Oil.
“You want gasoline, we’ll make gasoline,” Strasbaugh said. “They don’t have cars in Masdar, so they don’t need gasoline – and they use wind, solar, and other sources to run their televisions and computers without heating up the planet.”
“What other companies are involved in Masdar?”
MacDougal pulled a folded page from his pocket, a printout of a page from the Masdar website. It showed the city was wholly owned by Abu Dhabi, which had agreements with such “partners” as GE, Credit Suisse, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and several other internationally known entities.
“I wonder if they’ve got any teaching jobs over there,” Kate asked.