Hey Mr. Green,
Please clarify the gratuitous swipe at "big oil" that closed your otherwise excellent article about solar and wind power (Sierra, January/February 2009). Privatization? You're probably aware that 90 percent of the world’s oil reserves are not privatized per se, but are in the hands of various national oil companies. --Irv in Missouri City, Texas
I took a swat at big oil because now that its primary raw material is down to $50 per barrel, we might be too willing to forget its capacity for nefarious deeds. True, oil in countries like Iran and Iraq is now publicly owned and controlled. But this was not always the case.
The control of oil resources and oil revenues in these places happened only after considerable struggle. Foreign corporations dominated Iraq’s oil industry from the end of World War I until its 1958 revolution, when the resource started to be nationalized.
Iranians wrested control of its oil from foreign operators in the 1950s. Bolivia only recently managed to renationalize a significant portion of its oil. The war in Iraq has reopened the possibility that foreign companies will at least partly reestablish their past domination.
As the current economic debacle reminds us, it’s helpful to be suspicious of all big businesses—and of governments that do their bidding—and the oil industry is no exception. Dick Cheney and his dealings with industry representatives on his Energy Task Force provided a sobering example of the need for vigilance. We may never know the full results of this group’s influence on U.S. policy, because Cheney refused to fully reveal its deliberations, pleading executive privilege and a Sierra Club-led lawsuit failed to pry loose this information.
Having said this, I reiterate my agreement with Cheney and big oil on one major point: Oil and fossil fuels are going to be a major energy source for quite some time to come. Where I differ with them is the degree to which we must conserve such a precious resource.