Drill or Die

July 8, the Obama administration lost its court appeal to stay an order
issued last month by District Judge Martin Feldman lifting the
administration's six-month moratorium on offshore deepwater drilling.
The appeal was heard in the Fifth US Circuit Court.

But a funny thing happened only hours before the Fifth US Circuit Court issued its decision against the Obama administration.

July 8, the Obama administration lost its court appeal to stay an order
issued last month by District Judge Martin Feldman lifting the
administration's six-month moratorium on offshore deepwater drilling.
The appeal was heard in the Fifth US Circuit Court.

But a funny thing happened only hours before the Fifth US Circuit Court issued its decision against the Obama administration.

for Justice," the non-profit group that, a few months earlier, had
launched a campaign to publicize the Supreme Court's transformation
from an independent institution into a "corporate court," released a
white paper titled "Judicial Gusher: the Fifth Circuit's Ties to Oil (pdf)."
The report found that "many US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judges
have extensive and multi-faceted ties to the oil industry, a factor
which will come into play this week as a three-judge panel hears the
Obama Administration's appeal of a lower court decision blocking a
six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico."

Gusher" asserts that the three Fifth Circuit judges charged with
deciding the most recent motions in a legal battle over the moratorium
have either defended energy companies as lawyers or invested in energy
companies as judges.

publication is only the latest in a series of dramatic events that have
unfolded since the explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon in April.

The sad saga of American "justice" - Big Oil style
May 14, when, following the worst, and most relentless oil disaster in
US history, the Obama administration announced it would impose a
6-month moratorium on new permits for deep water drilling in order to
give a presidential commission time to study safety concerns, its
lawyers told US District Judge Martin Feldman that April's sinking of
the Deepwater Horizon rig off the Louisiana coast was a "game changer"
that exposed the risks of offshore oil exploration.

for a group of Louisiana offshore oil service and supply companies,
such risks were not enough to justify a halt to deepwater drilling. So,
Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc., along with more than a dozen other oil
services companies, sued US regulators to lift the ban in a New Orleans
federal court, arguing that if oil drilling were not allowed to
continue, the state of Louisiana would lose thousands of jobs, and the
region would be economically devastated.

the moratorium imposed only a temporary pause on deepwater drilling (in
waters deeper than 500 feet) was of little import to Reagan-appointee,
Judge Martin Feldman, who wasted no time in ruling that the Obama
administration had failed to justify the need for such "a blanket,
generic, indeed punitive, moratorium on deep-water oil and gas
drilling." The Obama administration responded by immediately requesting
that the moratorium be allowed to continue while the issue was being
litigated. That request was denied within hours after the Justice
Department's request for a stay was filed -- again by Judge Feldman.

his opinion, Feldman repeated his criticism of the Obama
administration's moratorium, saying that it was "indeed punitive"
because it was too broad, arbitrary and not justified given the impact
on thousands of oil industry workers and on local communities.

administration responded by requesting another stay from the Fifth
Circuit Court of Appeals -- the same court where the initial ruling on
the moratorium was appealed.

revelations that Judge Feldman held substantial investments in the oil
and gas industries (including stocks in Exxon, Halliburton, KBR and
Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig), have
done little to sway opponents of the ban; nor were they swayed by a
statement released in June through Feldman's own chambers revealing
that the judge instructed his broker to sell his Exxon stocks and a
subsidiary as soon as the market opened on June 22 -- one day after the

Big Oil cashes in on fiscal fear

UK Guardian and other financial news sources reported this summer that
shares in oil services companies including Halliburton, Diamond
Offshore, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger and other oil-related industries
are in the tank, so it is hardly surprising that Obama's moratorium
would enrage the industry. With tens of thousands of jobs in the
balance, it is equally understandable that such a move would strike
fear in the hearts of residents from communities whose livelihoods have
long been tied to the oil industry.

in large part to corporate fear mongering specifically designed to
exploit the very real anxieties of those who stand to suffer most from
massive unemployment in the Gulf, much of the frustration and anger
initially directed at BP has been redirected -- at the Obama
administration. Political and corporate fear mongering is a tactic that
can hardly go wrong when so many jobs are at stake.

may have found it modestly encouraging that Interior Secretary Salazar,
when confronted with the oft-repeated remark that a drilling ban would
effectively destroy Louisiana's offshore industries, responded: "The
greater irreparable harm would be if there was another blowout, when
there is not the oil response capability to even deal with the current
Horizon event."

at least so far, it seems that Big Oil remains in charge, having
successfully managed -- with the help of a complicit mainstream media
and the US judicial system -- to frame the national narrative as one of
"jobs vs. environment."

would seem to answer the "elephant-in-the-room" question, so poignantly
posed by one beleaguered blogger: "Why does Louisiana still support
offshore drilling, when its fishing industry is getting slammed by the
BP spill?"

(The myth of) executive power in a corporate-owned world

the immediate aftermath of the spill, Obama resolutely called on
Congress to roll back billions of dollars in tax breaks for Big Oil. He
urged the Senate to waste no time in passing a clean-energy bill in
order to end US dependence on fossil fuels.

even predicted that, despite the issue's divisive nature (and despite
having remained stuck in the Senate for months), he would somehow "find
the political support" for legislation that would dramatically alter
the way Americans fuel their homes and cars, including placing a price
on carbon pollution.

votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the
coming months," Obama told an audience at Carnegie Mellon University.

time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a
clean energy future ... I will continue to make the case for a clean
energy future wherever and whenever I can, and I will work with anyone
to get this done. And we will get it done.

the last decade," Obama said, the Minerals Management Agency "has
become emblematic of a failed philosophy that views all regulation with
hostility -- a philosophy that says corporations should be allowed to
play by their own rules and police themselves ... Oil companies
showered regulators with gifts and favors, and were essentially allowed
to conduct their own safety inspections and write their own

in past weeks, Obama seems to have softened his "anti-industry"
rhetoric, and his "clean energy future" is looking more and more
distant. The sense of urgency for passing legislation that offers more
than token financial incentives for genuine renewables (as opposed to
nuclear power) has, yet again, all but disappeared.

Obama has teased his constituents with the concept of eliminating
subsidies and tax breaks to the fossil fuel industries, even floating
the idea in his latest budget proposal, the president's fiscal loyalty
remains with the nuclear power industry, which just received another $9
Billion in new loans for nuclear reactor construction this July.

would seem that now, with the spill casting Big Oil in the worst
possible light, calling for the elimination of oil company subsidies
would be a "no brainer." Obama needs to reclaim his moral authority,
if for no other reason, to redeem himself in the eyes of his

politics is all about perception, and if Obama is to survive
politically in a corporate political culture, his options, at least in
his own mind, are limited. Taking on Big Oil means engaging in a power
struggle with one of the most powerful forces in the political universe
-- what some have called the "corporate oligopoly."

past behavior is any indicator, that is something Obama is unlikely to
do in his political lifetime. The president understands all too well
that it is the corporate oligopoly who helped put him where he is today
-- and it is they who can take him out.

The more things change ...

experts warn that the US will need what amounts to a "Green Industrial
Revolution" if we are to begin to mitigate accelerated climate change,
and step away from the brink of a great extinction. Yet, it was only
last March that President Obama reversed a decades-long moratorium on
offshore oil drilling along the East Coast from Delaware to Florida, in
the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

lifting the ban, Obama took oil industry engineers and geologists at
their word when they assured him that new technologies and drilling
methods, had rendered deepwater drilling virtually foolproof.

wrote environmental journalist John McQuaid, in an article criticizing
the Obama administration's policy reversal, "the notion that offshore
drilling is safe seems absurd."

perhaps, but the industry has long dominated government agencies at all
levels, including Congress and regulatory agencies. And that hasn't
changed with this administration.

and Chevron, according to Chris Kromm of the Institute of Southern
Studies, only recently leased new drilling rigs from Transocean, the
company whose Deepwater Horizon rig triggered the BP disaster. Kromm
quoted an industry publication story about Transocean that said,
"Transocean [is] still strong and growing." He concluded, "Despite the
disaster still unfolding in the Gulf, the energy and offshore drilling
industries feel the same way about their future."

author Robert Scheer wondered in a recent article, "whether the
president who bent over backward to pander to this group has learned
anything from this costly mess remains to be seen."

also remains to be seen is whether Obama will now, as Scheer puts it,
"view through a more skeptical lens the judgments and risk assessments
of plunderers who treat national resources as little more than profit

Twisted logic and false choices

the court of public opinion, continuing to drill is a relatively easy
sell, partly because of political and economic inertia and partly
because, as with jobs created by military spending, Americans are faced
with false choices. Having been blinded by what author Robert Scheer
calls, "lavishly funded corporate PR" to the real costs of such
reckless corporate behavior, it is understandable that those struggling
to survive would buy into the spin, but, as Scheer says, "it is
inexcusable when the political elite in Washington that know better
goes along with such chicanery."

"ordinary Americans" also bear some responsibility for the predicament
in which we find ourselves. The current "drill or die" campaign would
not be nearly as effective if American consumers were more willing to
challenge heretofore unchallenged cultural assumptions. Foremost among
them -- our own habits of consumption.

the 21st century will require us to think in terms of less, not more.
We will need to accept that, in contrast to all we have been taught,
growth does not necessarily equal good.

such an attitude will require Americans to view corporate PR tactics
with a far more critical eye than in the past. Frenzied marketing
campaigns, such as the one currently being employed by mega-consumer
electronics company Apple, to sell its absurdly over-hyped (and
"app-heavy") i-Phone 4, need to be seen for what they are. Whether
"creating demand" in a tanking economy or "manufacturing consent," by
saturating the mainstream media, even "embedding" their advertisements
into (what today passes as) "news segments," corporate marketers have
succeeded in convincing us that we need their products.

US moratorium not enough

Americans are more willing to accept that we will not "save ourselves"
by killing the planet on which we depend for survival, there will be no
solution to the crisis in which we now find ourselves.

as author Lisa Margoneli argued recently in an interview with PBS, it
is "a morally false choice" to halt drilling in the US, only to send
Big Polluters offshore, where environmental regulations are lax or, in
some cases, non-existent. It is a very "inconvenient truth" that to
ban oil drilling in the US, while looking the other way as the likes
of Shell in Nigeria, Texaco in Ecuador or Occidental in Colombia
continue to plunder the poorest countries on the planet, epitomizes the
myopic attitude and "NIMBYism" held by most US consumers.

we are to successfully challenge Big Oil's "right to pollute,"
Americans will need to stand in solidarity, arm in arm with the
indigenous activists who are now, and have long been, standing up to
these corporate behemoths in their own homelands. We will need to stand
in solidarity with those who have suffered most at the hands of Big
Oil, to challenge these companies not only in the Gulf, but everywhere
else they are abusing human rights and wreaking their destruction.

Humanity is at the precipice. We have entered an era unlike any other in global history. What it brings will depend on us.

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