Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Oil, Natural Gas, and Evo Morales

A little politics, of which there has not been much at highwayscribery of late.

The nation’s having stirred to the sinister reality of the Bush administration has robbed us of a primary leitmotiv.

Although the Bushies are still in power and will be responsible for a thousand administrative, regulatory and legal transgressions against our well being, they are spent as a creative force and source of leadership.

Nobody trusts them anymore, and nobody ever should have. It remains one of the great mysteries how a man of Bush’s limited achievement, and abbreviated pedigree where public service was concerned, ever rose to the place he did. A masterful bit of marketing to take a president’s son and cast him as something new and other.

It is hard to remember now, in the constant rain of insults against the administration (fired from now-safe bulwarks), just how little it had to answer for from the beginning, how easy it was for Bush to say he didn’t want to talk about his past addictions, and how that was fine, even though he'd head a government that regularly jails people for the same thing. And so on ad infinium...

More than any other event, the symbol for his presidency should be that press conference on the eve of war. The one where reporters raised their hands to ask questions already submitted and pre-approved by the White House.

Still lost in that past where everything he said went, Bush commented a few days ago that the federal government should not tax the oil companies given the massive profits they’re reaping.

Wow, didn’t see that coming.

“People in Washington have a tendency to tax everything,” he told reporters.

They also have a tendency to bomb everything, but I’ve never heard Bush complain about that.

What the situation calls for is a nice heavy windfall profits tax which is then returned to the consumers (formerly "the people") as, what they call in economics, a transfer-in-kind payment.

Then you cap the price of gas so that tax isn't just passed along to the consumer. And just watch how the oil companies continue to survive and thrive, and you, too!

But enough policy. Bush called on Congress to ease the regulations that make it so hard for ExxonMobil to make that gas, which are typically the things that also prevent them from poisoning the scribe or yourselves.

Then he said the oil companies should take the money and, instead of party with it, build more natural gas pipelines.

And speaking of natural gas pipelines, Evo Morales, the left wing president of Bolivia has announced his plans to nationalize that country's natural gas industry.

For those too young to remember the failed and miserable attempts to implement socialism last century, you “nationalize” by ordering the military to occupy the facilities of a particular industry.

It’s pretty strong stuff and harkens back to an earlier era of left wing of dictatorships like that of Velasco in Peru where the army and state were mobilized, ostensibly, in support of the poor. The big question, typically, is how long the armed forces go along with such things before cries of god and country begin to whet their own appetites for power.

A utopian might dream about how the money from South America’s second largest natural gas reserve could be run through the infrastructure of Morales’ electoral coalition-cum-government to apply it where needed in building a fair, just, modern, and civil society.

But that’s probably not going to happen. And anyway, in nationalizing the industry, Morales has essentially made off with the property of such monsters as Exxon, Repsol (Spain), BP Group (Great Britain), Petrobras (Brazil) and France’s Total.

That’s a surly bunch of folks who don’t much care for violations of property law. Natural gas has a big future right now, a fact Bush’s comment might have clued you in to. The infrastructure is being laid-in for its receipt proximate to U.S. shores. There it will become re-reliquified and used to fire a new generation of power plants designed to meet and ever-growing appetite for power.

So Morales is hoeing a short track to being deposed, because to a lot of people in power elsewhere than Bolivia he's a little indian with a little army and nothing more.

That being said, there has been an obvious corroding of the 20-year consensus regarding the proper path for economics. And the rise of men such as Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez are testimony to the late capitalist model’s failure to eliminate entire and enormous classes of disenfranchised people or silence them completely

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