The Hightower Report

Making America dependent on domestic oil instead of focusing on conservation and renewable fuels is an ass-backward energy policy; and the ridiculous notion that we should treat corporations like living beings


BUSH'S ENERGY SOLUTION

Poor George. It's not his fault. He was born with crude oil in his veins, so he just can't help it.

When it comes to framing an energy policy for America's future, George W. simply can't move beyond the same old plunder-and-pollute agenda of the Big Oil barons. With gasoline prices topping $2.50 a gallon and showing no signs of stopping there, Bush's political handlers decided that their boy needed to look like he has an energy plan to free America from its costly dependency on foreign oil. So now we have the Bush Plan: Make America dependent on domestic oil.

Damn the costs, says our oil-man-in-chief, full speed ahead on production! He wants oil rigs in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in our coastal waters, and in our national parks. He also wants to turn over some of America's closed military bases to the oil companies and give them tax subsidies to build more refineries, while also making it faster and easier for them to get permits to build the refineries, bypassing any opposition by local folks and clean air advocates.

Bush's plan is a wet dream come true for oil executives, but it's the same oily mess for America. It leaves our country hooked on high-priced, polluting petroleum and at the mercy of monopolistic oil giants with names like ExxonMobilChevronTexacoConocoBP.

And when George did include a nonoil proposal in his plan, it was to rev up another dinosaur: the long-dormant nuclear power industry. Again, his solution is to provide taxpayer subsidies to these corporate giants, while also crimping the democratic ability of local folks, environmentalists, and safety experts to stop the construction of such explosive behemoths. His nuke plan makes no mention of little side problems, like where to put the radioactive waste these plants generate.

Bush is looking backward, when America desperately needs leadership to move us forward to the bright future of conservation and renewable fuels.


CORPORATE FREE SPEECH

One of the silliest claims made by those who run corporate America is that the paper entity called "a corporation" must be treated like a human being, entitled to the same constitutional rights that we living, breathing U.S. citizens have – including the human right to freedom of speech.

Of course, a corporation is a thing, not a person, and to see how absurd it is for corporate executives to claim that their entities should have democratic rights, just sneak a peek at how they treat the free-speech rights of shareholders, the actual people who own the corporations. In theory, shareholders are the ultimate bosses of any corporation, supreme over the executives who're the hired hands doing day-to-day management. In practice, however, the relationship is turned on its head, with the executives bossing the owners.

The annual shareholder meeting is when owners supposedly get to grill their hirelings and set corporate policy. But these meetings have become a sad farce. For example, at this year's gathering of the shareholders of Weyerhaeuser, the executives imperiously decreed that the owners would no longer be able to go to an open microphone on the floor and ask whatever they want. Instead of free speech, questions for the Weyerhaeuser CEO had to be submitted in writing, and only 15 minutes were devoted to answering the owners' questions.

Of the 30 questions submitted, management deigned to respond to only 12 of them. And even then Weyerhaeuser's autocratic executives cut short the 15-minute Q&A period. One rebellious shareholder had the temerity to rise and ask why. He was summarily ejected from the meeting by a burly security guard (a guard hired by management and paid with the shareholders' own money). It was a crude and rude move that The New York Times business columnist Gretchen Morgenson termed "Kremlinesque."

Why would we extend free-speech rights to totalitarian entities that deny the most basic rights to their own owners?

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, Conoco, BP, renewable fuels, renewable energy, Corporate America, freedom of speech, Weyerhaeuser, Gretchen Morgenson, Kremlinesque

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