After a recent blog entry about the ways rising oil prices can affect our pocketbooks and ways that those prices will hopefully get us to (finally!) conserve, I received a rather virulent response from one individual. This commenter did not address the primary point of my blog entry, but rather took issue with my characterization of the oil industry as “raking in the money on the backs of the families who are struggling to make ends meet…” He used unsubstantiated figures to suggest that the oil industry’s profits were minimal in the price of oil. I challenged his figures with counter evidence, substantiating my evidence by citing my source. The commenter refused to address my evidence, instead choosing to resort to ad hominem attacks.
I would like to further address the issue. It is well reported that the oil industry has reported record profits over the past year (see also here, and here.). That is not record gross income, but record profit.
You can make a case, if you would like, that maximizing profits at any given opportunity is a just and acceptable way to operate in our economic system. That is an entirely different argument. But to try to claim that the industry is not “raking in money,” or that it is not at the expense of consumers, is simply disingenuous.
It is interesting to note that the oil industry has long been the recipient in generous federal subsidies. The current administration seems to have exacerbated the trend with the energy policy drafted in secret by a committee headed by Vice-President Cheney (a man with long standing ties to the oil industry), on which energy industry leaders appear to have been widely consulted, but from which conservation and environmental advocates were excluded. This policy and the legislation based upon it provides billions in federal subsidies to an oil industry already obviously awash in money.
Why does a highly profitable industry need government subsidies? How is this consistent with the purportedly small government, market advocating conservative philosophy? Is it moral to deride “handouts” to the poor, but justify billions of dollars in subsidies to the wealthy and profitable? For those whose politics are informed by their religious beliefs, is that what the scriptures counsel us?