JUDICIAL WATCH, July 17,2003
Title: Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oilfields
Author: Judicial Watch staff
FOREIGN POLICY IN FOCUS, January 2004
Title: “Bush-Cheney Energy Strategy:Procuring the Rest of the World’s Oil”
Author: Michael Klare
Faculty Evaluators: James Carr, Ph.D., Alexandra Von Meier, Ph.D.
Student Researcher: Cassie Cypher, Shannon Arthur
Documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Sierra Club’s and Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” The documents, dated March 2001, also feature maps of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates oilfields, pipelines, refineries and tanker terminals. There are supporting charts with details of the major oil and gas development projects in each country that provide information on the project’s costs, capacity, oil company and status or completion date.
Documented plans of occupation and exploitation predating September 11 confirm heightened suspicion that U.S. policy is driven by the dictates of the energy industry. According to Judicial Watch President, Tom Fitton, “These documents show the importance of the Energy Task Force and why its operations should be open to the public.”
When first assuming office in early 2001, President Bush’s top foreign policy priority was not to prevent terrorism or to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction-or any of the other goals he espoused later that year following 9-11. Rather, it was to increase the flow of petroleum from suppliers abroad to U.S. markets. In the months before he became president, the United States had experienced severe oil and natural gas shortages in many parts of the country, along with periodic electrical power blackouts in California. In addition, oil imports rose to more than 50% of total consumption for the first time in history, provoking great anxiety about the security of the country’s long-term energy supply. Bush asserted that addressing the nation’s “energy crisis” was his most important task as president.
The energy turmoil of 2000-01 prompted Bush to establish a task force charged with developing a long-range plan to meet U.S. energy requirements. With the advice of his close friend and largest campaign contributor, Enron CEO, Ken Lay, Bush picked Vice President Dick Cheney, former Halliburton CEO, to head this group. In 2001 the Task Force formulated the National Energy Policy (NEP), or Cheney Report, bypassing possibilities for energy independence and reduced oil consumption with a declaration of ambitions to establish new sources of oil.
The Bush Administration’s struggle to keep secret the workings of Cheney’s Energy Task Force has been ongoing since early in the President’s tenure. The General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, requested information in spring of 2001 about which industry executives and lobbyists the Task Force was meeting with in developing the Bush Administration’s energy plan. When Cheney refused disclosure, Congress was pressed to sue for the right to examine Task Force records, but lost. Later, amid political pressure building over improprieties regarding Enron’s colossal collapse, Cheney’s office released limited information revealing six Task Force meetings with Enron executives.
With multiple lawsuits currently pending, the Bush Administration asserts that its right to secrecy is a matter of executive privilege in regard to White House records. But because the White House staffed the Task Force with employees from the Department of Energy and elsewhere, it cannot pretend that its documents are White House records. A 2001 case, in which the Justice Department has four times appealed federal court rulings that the Vice President release task force records, has been brought before the Supreme Court. The case Richard B Cheney v. U.S. District Court for the District of Colombia, No. 03-475, to be heard by Cheney’s friend and duck hunting partner, Justice Scalia, is now pending. Cases based on the Federal Advisory Committee Act and Freedom of Information Act which require the Task Force a balanced membership, open meetings, and public records, are attempting to beat the Bush Administration in its battle to keep its internal workings secret.
UPDATE BY MICHAEL KLARE: The issue of U.S. dependence on imported oil has only become more critical over the past few months as U.S. oil demand has risen and global supplies have contracted, pushing up gasoline prices in the U.S., and thereby threatening the economic recovery now (supposedly) under way. This, in turn, has made oil prices and dependency an issue in the presidential election, with President George W. Bush defending the status quo and Senator John Kerry, the presumed Democratic nominee, calling for dramatic action to reduce U.S. dependence on imported petroleum.
The contraction of global supplies is due in large part to political turmoil in the major producing areas – precisely the sort of situation I predicted in my article. In particular, the pace of overseas oil production has been moderated by repeated sabotage of oil infrastructure in Iraq, terrorist strikes on foreign oil firms in Saudi Arabia, ethnic unrest in the Delta region of Nigeria, and continuing political turbulence in Venezuela. Together, these developments have pushed oil prices to their highest levels in decades. At the same time, the Bush Administration has shown no inclination to reduce U.S. military involvement in major overseas producing areas, especially the Persian Gulf, the Caspian Sea basin and Africa.
All of this has had one effect: The major news media are beginning to pay much closer attention to the links between political turmoil abroad and the economics of oil at home. Most major newspapers, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, have published articles on various aspects of this problem. Still, the media remains reluctant to explain the close link between the energy policies of the Bush Administration and U.S. military strategy.
A number of new books have come out (or soon will) that bear on this subject. My own book, “Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Petroleum Dependency” will be published by Metropolitan Books in August. Also highly recommended are: “Out of Gas,” by David Goodstein (W.W. Norton); “The End of Oil,” by Paul Roberts (Houghton Mifflin); and “The Party’s Over,” by Richard Heinberg (New Society Publishers).