Southeast Missourian: McCaskill Blasts Big Oil
July 20, 2006
The U.S. Senate candidate was touring the state to talk about energy policy.
by Rudi Keller
Federal energy policy gives too much away to big oil companies and shortchanges renewable fuel production, U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill said Wednesday.
In a Cape Girardeau stop billed as a forum on energy independence, McCaskill, a Democrat, alternately denounced the Republican incumbent, U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, and promoted broader investments in solar and wind power and emerging technology to produce ethanol from wood and plant materials.
With her mother, Betty McCaskill, joining her on the three-day state tour on energy policy, McCaskill said the energy bill passed last year provided $9 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry at the same time producers were reporting the largest industrywide profits in history.
The five largest oil companies reported $113 billion in profits in 2005, McCaskill said, up from $34 billion just three years earlier.
The president of Exxon-Mobil, McCaskill said, received $50 million in salary and $400 million in retirement bonuses last year.
"How in that environment do you see fit to give tax breaks to the oil industry?" she said.
And the incentives in the measure for ethanol and biodiesel production, she said, lacked protections for taxpayers. The incentives are to help farmers who invest in production plants that turn corn and soybeans into fuel, she said. But there is little incentive in the measure to keep the plants in those hands, she said.
"Taxpayers will be funding the beginning of the industry, but if we are not careful, guess who will swoop in and buy it all -- these five big oil companies," she said.
The United States should be a leader in developing wind and solar power, she said, but Japanese companies now eclipse American firms in the manufacture of solar cells.
"Wind and solar is the wave of the future in this country," McCaskill said.
"We have wind, but it is a different kind," chimed in Betty McCaskill.
Under questioning from the audience of about 60 people at the Cape Girardeau Public Library, McCaskill said she opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and increased drilling in environmentally sensitive areas of the Gulf of Mexico within 125 miles of shore.
Oil from the Arctic would take at least 10 years to make it to the market, McCaskill said. A step that could bring relief to higher gasoline prices soon would be to examine mergers in the oil industry that have concentrated ownership in a few large companies.
Anti-trust lawyers in the U.S. Department of Justice "have not been very busy lately," she said. Monopolistic practices have raised concerns on both sides of the partisan divide, she said, and need to be investigated.
"If we even begin to rattle those cages, you will see the competition return," she said.
As McCaskill approached the library, she was met by a handful of Republicans carrying signs linking her to U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., supporters of gay rights and opponents of gun rights. "Hands off my guns Claire," read one sign.
"We just want our side to be heard," said Donna Lichtenegger, Cape Girardeau County coordinator for Talent and vice chairwoman of the county Republican Party.
After the energy forum, McCaskill said she doesn't believe voters will be fooled by appeals on "wedge" social issues designed to divide constituencies.
Instead, she said, this year's wedge issue is big profits and the big executive salaries they support, "taking care of the people in the board room or the people making money for the company."