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As a native of Oklahoma, this story was bound to catch my attention:

Oklahoma’s painful car culture

I know well how dependent Oklahoma is on the car. The reason?

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — For many people in Oklahoma, life is built around the car. With several refineries in the region, years of cheap fuel have made it possible for many people to live far from their jobs.

So, I was preparing myself for another Big Oil scapegoating, when to my pleasant surprise the story took an unexpected turn:

Cindy LaBeff, 46, drives 70 miles a day from the small town of McLoud to her job at a data processing center in Oklahoma City. Until a few months ago, she spent $40 on gas for her work week. These days it’s $60 a work week – and $80 if she wants to go to church on the weekend.

She decided she can’t afford the higher prices. With no public transportation in her area, she went online to form a carpool. LaBeff has been ridesharing for a week now, and she hopes to add two new members to her car. “That way, it’s just a dollar a gallon,” she said.

If our governor or mayor would help set up carpooling, if they would push it better, then people would think about it,” she said. “But there has been nothing.”

Of course up until recently, the demand for public transportation or carpooling hasn’t been there. And Oklahoma is in a difficult spot:

Due to its sheer size, public transportation is a tough prospect in Oklahoma City. City Manager Jim Couch says that at 627 square miles, Oklahoma City has the third greatest land mass of all U.S. cities. It also ranked last among 50 U.S. cities in a recent study on areas best able to cope with high oil prices.

Tulsa is in the same boat:

High gas prices are also causing an increase in demand for public transport in neighboring Tulsa, Okla. Tulsa ranked second to last in the Common Cause study. Tulsa transit manager Bill Cartwright said urban professionals, who rarely rode the bus before, are now among his customers. “You’ve got people coming out of the woodwork, screaming for more bus service. We get calls and emails daily,” said Cartwright.

Note that those are the densely populated areas of Oklahoma. Most of the rest of the state has a very low population density. That’s why I have been preaching to family and friends back home for years: “Get yourself fuel efficient. Imagine that you have to pay $10/gal for gasoline.”

But it was nice to see a story on high prices were people are taking some initiative instead of demanding the government punish oil companies because prices have gotten high.

A reader also sent me an interesting story about Toyota. They are looking into cellulosic ethanol and green diesel:

Automakers going greener

Earlier this week, Toyota said it had developed a new fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle that can travel more than twice the distance of its previous model without filling up (see Toyota boosts range of fuel cell hybrid). Toyota said the improved FCHV-adv model has a maximum cruising range of 516 miles, up from 205 miles.

The car company also said its conducting research on a cellulosic ethanol, focusing on using technologies that involve yeast.

Toyota said it’s also working with Nippon Oil on high-concentration bio hydrofined diesel, also known as BHD, as a biofuel alternative.

Biomass to liquids are also on the table at the automaker, which said it’s conducting research on the technology. BTLs are derived from synthesizing gas made from all types of biomass, including cellulose.

BHD would appear to me to be green diesel, much like what is made by Neste, Petrobras, and the COP/Tyson venture. (See a bit on the projects from these companies here; explore the green diesel stories I have written here). Note that green diesel, produced either from hydrotreating/hydrocracking (Neste, Petrobras, COP) or via the BTL reaction (Choren) is chemically different from biodiesel. Green diesel has chemical properties identical to petroleum diesel.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | cellulosic ethanol, green diesel, mass transit, Oklahoma, Toyota | 2 Comments

I Fought the Law

And I won. For the most part. Thanks to all who wrote and commented with advice. Here’s what happened.

As I wrote earlier in the week, I had a little misunderstanding with the game wardens while home for Christmas. The (optional) court date they gave me was January 30th, but I fly back to Scotland on the 6th.

I was planning on just getting an attorney and letting him deal with it, but I also wanted to be able to tell my story. So, my son and I first went to the court clerk, where the game warden had just brought the tickets in. She was very friendly, and asked me what happened. I told her, and she was appalled. She told me that she and her husband had a similar run-in when they were checking on some of their cows, and she knew how over-zealous some of those game wardens can be. She finished filing the charges, and sent me over to the district judge’s office.

I talked to the judge’s secretary. She also commented about this new crop of game wardens, and said that they had been having issues with some of the citations they had written. She made a comment about them needed to exercise a bit of common sense when dealing with people. She stuck her head in, asked if the judge could talk to me, and he said that he could.

The ticket had my Montana address on it, and at first he didn’t realize I was from the area. He said “Son, you had a gun and a spotlight in a vehicle. Here in southeastern Oklahoma, that’s a problem. What happened?” I told him who I was, and where the incident happened. (He has property not far from there.) I could see his demeanor change as I told my story. He said “Wait a second. You were on your own property?” I told him we were. He said “And they came all the way down to the house?” (The house is well off the road). He wasn’t happy. He then asked about Scotland, and if another court date would work. I told him that we were leaving this weekend. He said “Let me go and talk to the District Attorney.”

So, he went upstairs to the DA’s office for about 10 minutes. My son and I sat out in the hall, and I told him that this was a good sign. So far, nobody had been sympathetic to the game wardens’ actions. After a bit, the judge came out and said the DA wanted to see me. I went in and talked to him about my options. Again, he was sympathetic. He said “Look, I know that farmers around here need to get out and check on fences, cows, etc. They are almost always going to have a gun in their possession. So what they cited you for could be cited on private property all the time. In fact, I could have been cited for this before.” I was thinking “This is starting to sound pretty good.” He then said “But, the game wardens are going to want to contest this in court. I would rather not waste the court’s time on this, and I know that you aren’t going to be here after this week.”

He then handed me a copy of the game warden’s report, and asked if it looked like the facts were correct. I read it over, and other than one statement, it was written up correctly. That one statement was “Mr. Rapier said that they weren’t deer hunting, but were trying to spot raccoons.” I don’t know whether he meant to say that I actually said that we weren’t deer hunting (the word deer was never mentioned by me or the game warder) or whether he was trying to convey that information in his report. But I wanted to clarify that I was never questioned about whether I was deer hunting.

The mystery of how they arrived so quickly was also solved. They said we were spotted by an airplane flying directly overhead (looking for “illegal hunting activity”), and that it was called in at 20:48. They were very close by, and when it was called in they were pulling down the driveway 10 minutes later.

The DA said “Look, I don’t want to prosecute this. But I would like to make some kind of deal that satisfies everyone.” He turned to his computer and did some research. He said “How does this sound. I can give you a pair of options. First, we can try to work out a court date, get the game wardens in here, and contest the charges in court.” He told me that that face value of all of the 3 fines was actually about $800 EACH. He said “That’s one option. But I would rather do this. I will dismiss the first two charges – Hunting from a motor vehicle and spotlighting in exchange for a no contest plea and the minimum fine for hunting without a license. I will order return of the gun and light.”

We discussed this for a bit. When the game wardens showed up, I had a predator call in my pocket. When we had been out target practicing earlier, we had planned on calling up some coyotes. They had been making a lot of noise the past few nights. While we never used the call, we were walking around in the woods with a gun and would have shot a coyote had we seen one. That means that technically, we were hunting earlier in the day for coyotes (again, on private property). However, we weren’t hunting when the game wardens cited me.

I asked about the seriousness of the charge. In Oklahoma, here is the classification of the charge:

“Non-serious offenses” offenses which are not recorded in criminal history records, adapted from the list of FBI non-serious offenses.

It is essentially equivalent to a speeding ticket. So my options were to take this deal, or hire a lawyer and send him in to tell my side of the story without me being there (risky, in my opinion). So, I took the deal, paid a $200 fine plus $100 in court costs, and was done with it.

One more interesting thing happened when I was getting my Dad’s gun and light back. They let me look around the evidence locker. They had a bunch of automatic weapons that they had confiscated from a meth lab. There must have been a total of about 100 guns in there. Pretty cool. And once again, I got a sympathetic view from the deputy who released my gun. He apologized over the whole thing.

All in all, not a terrible way to end the episode. It was still a bad deal, but it could have turned out a lot worse.

January 5, 2008 Posted by | game wardens, law enforcement, off topic, Oklahoma | 11 Comments

The Game Wardens Make a House Call

I seldom post off-topic material, but this is definitely off-topic. So, if you would rather read only energy-related posts, I will have another post up in a couple of days.

While I won my $1,000 bet on oil prices by a whisker, an unfortunate incident happened during the last weekend of 2007 that wiped out my win.

I spent Christmas with my wife and kids on my parents’ farm in Oklahoma. During our time there, I tried to teach my kids something about sustainable living. One of the things I did was teach my 11-year old son how to shoot. We have a place on the farm that we use for target practice, and we worked on shooting with my dad’s .22 Magnum.

After we finished shooting, we went back to the house. After the last shot, I had left the spent shell in the chamber – intending to dump the rest of the shells out when we got home. We had some work to do – my son wanted to pick up some pecans (he had picked up 40 pounds and sold them for $20 already) and I was building a composter for my parents – so I put the gun in our rented minivan.

When it started to get dark, my son and I went inside. I began watching a football game with my dad, but my son wanted me to take him down to our pecan orchard to see if we could see any animals. I have done this since I was a kid – take a flashlight or spotlight, walk down to our pecan orchard, and get an idea of how the animal populations are faring. I have never in my life fired a shot when doing this. Many people do essentially the same thing by setting up game cameras that catch animals moving about at night. I don’t have one, so I just go shine the light and have a look.

At halftime of the Texas A&M – Penn State game, I told my son I would take him down and we would have a look. I picked up a handheld spotlight so we could walk down quietly – which is what I normally do – but it wasn’t working. The only other spotlight we had plugged into a cigarette lighter, so we grabbed it and hopped into the minivan. I had forgotten to take the gun out earlier, so I pushed it to the side and we set off.

We made the typical loop, which is less than 300 yards to the pecan orchard, shined the light, and returned home. We didn’t see anything, and we quickly returned home because I didn’t want to miss the start of the second half of the game. We had been gone less than 10 minutes.

As we were pulling through the gate back into the yard, a vehicle was coming down our driveway. My son asked who it was. I told him I didn’t know, but I knew as soon as they pulled in behind us and turned on the flashing lights. I said “It’s the game warden, but don’t worry, we didn’t do anything wrong.”

A second vehicle pulled up behind them, and a total of 4 very young (20-something) game wardens got out with guns drawn. They said through a loudspeaker “Get your hands up where we can see them”, followed by “Roll your window down.” I told my son not to make any sudden moves, and I very slowly rolled the window down.

They told us to step out, put us up against the vehicle, and frisked us. They questioned us about what we were doing, and I told them. I explained why we had the gun in the vehicle, and that there was a spent shell in the chamber. They quizzed my son about this, and he told them that we had been target practicing.

At about this time, my 5-year old son looked out the window, saw what was going on, and informed everyone in the house that there were several trucks in the yard. My dad and brother-in-law came out and asked what was going on. The four game wardens huddled up for a few minutes, and then the driver of the first vehicle came up and started writing me three tickets: 1. Hunting without a license; 2. Hunting with the aid of a motor vehicle; and 3. Spotlighting. Fortunately they are only misdemeanors, but the face value of the tickets is about $1500. They also confiscated my dad’s gun and spotlight.

While one was writing the tickets, another kept mouthing off at me. At one point, he said “This gun’s just been fired. When were you target practicing?” My son told him that we had been doing that at 4 p.m. (about 5 hours earlier). A few minutes later, he said “You don’t even have a valid driver’s license.” I caught myself just as I was about to ask if none of the four of them had any actual poachers that they could be out chasing. (I did think about the irony of driving a vehicle with Texas tags, while having a Montana driver’s license, living in Scotland, and getting written up in Oklahoma. But my Montana driver’s license is valid. I have to get a UK driver’s license after being in the country for 1 year, but I haven’t yet been in the UK for a year.)

My son was shivering, as neither of us was dressed to be outdoors in the cold. So I asked if he could go inside. They let him go. I told the one writing the ticket that I knew he was just doing his job, but we were not hunting. He responded “If you have a spotlight and a gun, then as far as I am concerned, you were hunting.” That’s probably true if you catch someone out on a public road at night, but I guarantee you there are lots of times on a farm that someone will have both a spotlight and a gun in a vehicle and not be hunting. And that was the situation with us.

Unfortunately, I was given a court date of January 30th. I fly back to Scotland on January 6th. But, no worries. I was told I can just go to the courthouse and pay the fine. Now what kind of message does that send to my son? We were not hunting, and he knew we were not hunting, but I am supposed to go pay a fine for a bunch of hunting violations?

Let’s review. First, I was in a rented minivan. I have to turn it back in to the rental car place at the airport in a few days. Who would hunt in that? There were two pickups at the house that we could have taken had we been hunting. We weren’t dressed to be outdoors. The gun was not ready to fire. They quizzed my 11-year old, and he told them that we weren’t hunting. My dad and brother-in-law told them we weren’t hunting. I told them we weren’t hunting. So, I am definitely going to contest the charges if I can see a judge or district attorney before we fly back home. I will probably lose, but even if it ends up costing me more money I won’t plead guilty to a charge that I didn’t commit. Had the ticket said something like “Possession of a gun and a spotlight in a vehicle”, then I would plead guilty to that. But the violations are all for hunting, and we weren’t hunting.

My son thinks the whole thing is terribly unfair (as does the rest of my family). But I have explained to them that game wardens often catch people with guns and spotlights, and probably 90% of the time they are hunting illegally. I certainly support their efforts. And unlike police officers, the vast majority of the people that game wardens deal with have guns. They have dangerous jobs. So they tend to be a very non-nonsense bunch. But I don’t think even the guy who wrote the ticket really thought we were hunting. He just thought he could make that charge stick.

What I can’t figure out is how they got there so fast. We live out in the sticks, and yet 2 truckloads of game wardens – none from the closest town – were there in less than 10 minutes. My guess is that they had been called out on someone else, and just happened to be in the area. They do fly airplanes over looking for poachers, so if they were in the area and the plane spotted us immediately, that could explain it.

The incident certainly put a damper on our holiday. One good thing may come out of it, though. My son got a taste of what it’s like to have a run-in with the law, and he got that taste at an impressionable age. I told him to remember how scared he was when we were being frisked; that this was the sort of unpleasantness that comes from breaking the law. So maybe it will ultimately be an incentive for him to always stay on the right side of the law.

January 2, 2008 Posted by | game wardens, law enforcement, off topic, Oklahoma | 42 Comments

What Planet Are They From?

I have come across a couple of articles in the past few days that really left me shaking my head. One praises Hugo Chavez as a hero, and the other blasts oil companies for their multi-million dollar gifts to higher education. These people definitely see the world through a very different set of lenses than I do.

Hugo Chavez: Hero of the People

There are extremists on both ends of the political spectrum. For every Ann Coulter on the Right, there is a Wayne Madsen on the Left: Both are just as out of touch as they can possibly be. I have found that I can’t communicate with either sort of extremist, because they are generally entrenched in their views and impervious to any reasoning that challenges them. First up we have Madsen praising Hugo Chavez:

Better Than Bush’s Let-Them-Eat-Cake

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Publication date: 2007-03-19

By Wayne Madsen

WASHINGTON – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and American President Bush could not be further opposites. While Bush, an oil family scion, incoherently blathers on about the problems of highly priced gasoline and heating oil, his oil industry friends rack up obscene profits.

Meanwhile, Chavez, the champion of his country’s poor, delivers on his promises by providing deeply discounted home-heating oil, through Venezuela’s state-owned Citgo, to low-income Americans.

It should be clear to all thinking Americans that Chavez delivers and Bush does not.

Take that, Chavez critics. You aren’t “thinking Americans.”

THE BUSH-CHENEY oil cartel finds it reprehensible that poor people receive a 40 percent discount on their heating oil. For them, it is outrageous that such a program might eat into the grotesque profits of their oil industry pals.

What is monstrous is that Bush and Dick Cheney would sit idly by as America’s poor and elderly freeze to death in their homes because they cannot pay for luxuriously-priced home-heating oil.

Yes, “luxuriously-priced home-heating oil.” The current spot price is $1.67 a gallon, much lower than the apparently even more “luxuriously-priced” items like milk and bottled water. This is the problem with extremism. In his rabid state, Madsen takes complete leave of his senses and makes these preposterous claims.

Words can’t describe the level of cluelessness exhibited here. First, why can Chavez even provide deeply discounted heating oil? Because his country invited oil companies in to do business, they invested billions of dollars developing Venezuela’s oil fields, and now Chavez is saying “I’ll take that.” What Chavez hasn’t figured out yet – or maybe he is starting to as oil production continues to decline in his country – is that regardless of whether your oil industry is being run by private companies, or by the government, it takes major capital expenditures to keep it going.

So, can Chavez under-invest in the industry while diverting money to his pet causes? He can for a while, but you can see the results. Despite having enormous oil reserves, he and his cronies are running Venezuela’s oil industry right into the ground. His generosity to the poor has only been possible because he had a goose that laid golden eggs because they constantly reinvested money back into the business. Once he kills the goose, where is he going to get the money to continue his programs? I guess he could invite the oil companies back in and try to repeat the cycle, but I think they will be a bit more cautious next time around.

Big Oil’s Reprehensible Philanthropy

Next, the FTCR is in the news again. I could probably do a regular column on them. As far as I can tell, their mission statement seems to be “Slam oil companies and issue a press release every time we do.” I honestly can’t see that they serve any function besides self-promotion. They put out one misinformed press release after another, but now they have come up with perhaps the most disturbing Big Oil story ever:

ConocoPhillips Tries To Buy Into “Big Oil U” In Greenwash Campaign

SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — ConocoPhillips, with a $6 million gift to the University of Oklahoma’s School of Geology and Geophysics, is the latest oil giant seeking to buy respectability by capitalizing on the name of a well-known university, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.

Why that’s disgusting! An oil company with Oklahoma roots giving money to an Oklahoma institution of higher learning! Despicable. Of course if the FTCR wasn’t quite so clueless, they might recognize that oil companies have a long history of giving to higher education, and in fact most oil companies have a dedicated budget for philanthropic causes. But I don’t expect the FTCR to know that, nor to mention it if they did, since it doesn’t support their mission statement. It seems that this is all new news to the FTCR, and they felt compelled to spin it as bad news by claiming that Big Oil is suddenly trying to buy respectability.

“Big Oil, an industry that has made billions at the expense of the environment, is trying to clean up its deservedly dirty image by associating with well-known universities,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with FTCR. “Independent academic activities are too important to let them be sold to Big Oil companies that want to greenwash their image.”

Just to show the rank hypocrisy within the FTCR, remember that these are the guys calling for sub-$2.00 gasoline. Let’s see, guys. Will cheap gas make environmental problems better or worse? If they had their way and got what they wanted, we would consume much more gasoline than we currently consume. Would that be good or bad, fellows? Take your time.

If you don’t like oil companies and think they are polluting the environment, then what do you think you are doing when you drive a car or fly on an airplane? Are they doing the polluting, or are you? Don’t be a hypocrite. Make a stand against pollution by giving up your petroleum-based fuels, plastics, paints, medicines, fertilizers, clothing, etc.

“For a paltry $6 million, Conoco gets naming rights to the school and an industry friendly professor to spout their warped view of the world in an academic environment. We call on the regents to reject this deal,” said Simpson.

So, these companies have a “deservedly dirty image” and a “warped view of the world”, they have “made billions at the expense of the environment” and are now “seeking to buy respectability” with their “paltry $6 million.” Gosh, at least these guys aren’t biased in their viewpoints. I wonder how many of them drive cars and fly on airlines?

Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Program receives $100 million from ExxonMobil. The oil giant has recently launched an advertising campaign touting its involvement with the university. Movie producer Steve Bing, a Stanford alumnus, was so appalled by the campaign that he canceled a $2 million pledge to the school.

So Stanford netted $98 million dollars after Bing pouted and went home. I think Stanford can live with that deal.

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley is negotiating a $500 million deal with BP to create the Energy Biosciences Institute on campus.

No way! I also heard that when they aren’t destroying the world by funding higher education, they spend their time torturing puppies.

“Big Oil has an image problem,” said Simpson. “We simply cannot allow them to fix it by turning our respected colleges and universities into ‘Big Oil U’.”

Now isn’t this what you really meant? “Big Oil has an image problem. We simply cannot allow them to fix it because our mission is to perpetuate it.”

Perhaps if the FTCR had done their homework, they might have come across this article:

Okla. Univ. Receives $6M Gift From ConocoPhillips

Source:Journal Record – Oklahoma City
Publication date: 2007-03-16

Frank Phillips of Bartlesville and E.W. Marland of Ponca City – two Oklahoma oil industry pioneers – were among the first private donors to the University of Oklahoma.

Phillips and his brother started Phillips Petroleum and Marland founded Marland Oil, which merged with Continental Oil Co. – Conoco – in 1929. Phillips Petroleum and Conoco merged in 2002.

On Thursday, the company now known as ConocoPhillips and based in Houston continued the tradition of providing financial support to OU with a $6 million contribution allocated to the School of Geology and Geophysics.

Total gifts and pledges to OU from ConocoPhillips now total $33 million, said David L. Boren, OU president.

The FTCR press release closes with this whopper:

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a leading consumer watchdog group.

Non-partisan? Non-partisan?!! I wonder what definition of non-partisan they are using? When every article that they write about oil companies is riddled with adjectives like “deservedly dirty image” and a “warped view of the world”, they show how much credibility they have by claiming that they are “non-partisan.”

And if that story wasn’t bad enough, this one will really make the FTCR’s blood boil:

ConocoPhillips Contributes $1 Million To Memorial Hermann Life Flight

HOUSTON, Mar. 20, 2007 – ConocoPhillips announced today its contribution of $1 million to Memorial Hermann Life Flight to help with the purchase of six new helicopters that will provide enhanced emergency care to the community.

“Since its inception in 1976, Memorial Hermann’s Life Flight has brought hope to thousands of patients who have required emergency medical care and transportation,” said Phil Frederickson, executive vice president, ConocoPhillips. “By replacing the existing four helicopters and adding two new helicopters, Life Flight will be able to reach many more people who have life-threatening medical conditions.”

They should set up a hotline for consumers to call in and turn in oil companies every time they commit philanthropy. If they like, I can get them a hundred more stories like these. They can issue a scathing press release in response to each story.

March 22, 2007 Posted by | ConocoPhillips, FTCR, Hugo Chavez, oil companies, Oklahoma, OU | 16 Comments

What Planet Are They From?

I have come across a couple of articles in the past few days that really left me shaking my head. One praises Hugo Chavez as a hero, and the other blasts oil companies for their multi-million dollar gifts to higher education. These people definitely see the world through a very different set of lenses than I do.

Hugo Chavez: Hero of the People

There are extremists on both ends of the political spectrum. For every Ann Coulter on the Right, there is a Wayne Madsen on the Left: Both are just as out of touch as they can possibly be. I have found that I can’t communicate with either sort of extremist, because they are generally entrenched in their views and impervious to any reasoning that challenges them. First up we have Madsen praising Hugo Chavez:

Better Than Bush’s Let-Them-Eat-Cake

Source: The Augusta Chronicle
Publication date: 2007-03-19

By Wayne Madsen

WASHINGTON – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and American President Bush could not be further opposites. While Bush, an oil family scion, incoherently blathers on about the problems of highly priced gasoline and heating oil, his oil industry friends rack up obscene profits.

Meanwhile, Chavez, the champion of his country’s poor, delivers on his promises by providing deeply discounted home-heating oil, through Venezuela’s state-owned Citgo, to low-income Americans.

It should be clear to all thinking Americans that Chavez delivers and Bush does not.

Take that, Chavez critics. You aren’t “thinking Americans.”

THE BUSH-CHENEY oil cartel finds it reprehensible that poor people receive a 40 percent discount on their heating oil. For them, it is outrageous that such a program might eat into the grotesque profits of their oil industry pals.

What is monstrous is that Bush and Dick Cheney would sit idly by as America’s poor and elderly freeze to death in their homes because they cannot pay for luxuriously-priced home-heating oil.

Yes, “luxuriously-priced home-heating oil.” The current spot price is $1.67 a gallon, much lower than the apparently even more “luxuriously-priced” items like milk and bottled water. This is the problem with extremism. In his rabid state, Madsen takes complete leave of his senses and makes these preposterous claims.

Words can’t describe the level of cluelessness exhibited here. First, why can Chavez even provide deeply discounted heating oil? Because his country invited oil companies in to do business, they invested billions of dollars developing Venezuela’s oil fields, and now Chavez is saying “I’ll take that.” What Chavez hasn’t figured out yet – or maybe he is starting to as oil production continues to decline in his country – is that regardless of whether your oil industry is being run by private companies, or by the government, it takes major capital expenditures to keep it going.

So, can Chavez under-invest in the industry while diverting money to his pet causes? He can for a while, but you can see the results. Despite having enormous oil reserves, he and his cronies are running Venezuela’s oil industry right into the ground. His generosity to the poor has only been possible because he had a goose that laid golden eggs because they constantly reinvested money back into the business. Once he kills the goose, where is he going to get the money to continue his programs? I guess he could invite the oil companies back in and try to repeat the cycle, but I think they will be a bit more cautious next time around.

Big Oil’s Reprehensible Philanthropy

Next, the FTCR is in the news again. I could probably do a regular column on them. As far as I can tell, their mission statement seems to be “Slam oil companies and issue a press release every time we do.” I honestly can’t see that they serve any function besides self-promotion. They put out one misinformed press release after another, but now they have come up with perhaps the most disturbing Big Oil story ever:

ConocoPhillips Tries To Buy Into “Big Oil U” In Greenwash Campaign

SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — ConocoPhillips, with a $6 million gift to the University of Oklahoma’s School of Geology and Geophysics, is the latest oil giant seeking to buy respectability by capitalizing on the name of a well-known university, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said today.

Why that’s disgusting! An oil company with Oklahoma roots giving money to an Oklahoma institution of higher learning! Despicable. Of course if the FTCR wasn’t quite so clueless, they might recognize that oil companies have a long history of giving to higher education, and in fact most oil companies have a dedicated budget for philanthropic causes. But I don’t expect the FTCR to know that, nor to mention it if they did, since it doesn’t support their mission statement. It seems that this is all new news to the FTCR, and they felt compelled to spin it as bad news by claiming that Big Oil is suddenly trying to buy respectability.

“Big Oil, an industry that has made billions at the expense of the environment, is trying to clean up its deservedly dirty image by associating with well-known universities,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with FTCR. “Independent academic activities are too important to let them be sold to Big Oil companies that want to greenwash their image.”

Just to show the rank hypocrisy within the FTCR, remember that these are the guys calling for sub-$2.00 gasoline. Let’s see, guys. Will cheap gas make environmental problems better or worse? If they had their way and got what they wanted, we would consume much more gasoline than we currently consume. Would that be good or bad, fellows? Take your time.

If you don’t like oil companies and think they are polluting the environment, then what do you think you are doing when you drive a car or fly on an airplane? Are they doing the polluting, or are you? Don’t be a hypocrite. Make a stand against pollution by giving up your petroleum-based fuels, plastics, paints, medicines, fertilizers, clothing, etc.

“For a paltry $6 million, Conoco gets naming rights to the school and an industry friendly professor to spout their warped view of the world in an academic environment. We call on the regents to reject this deal,” said Simpson.

So, these companies have a “deservedly dirty image” and a “warped view of the world”, they have “made billions at the expense of the environment” and are now “seeking to buy respectability” with their “paltry $6 million.” Gosh, at least these guys aren’t biased in their viewpoints. I wonder how many of them drive cars and fly on airlines?

Stanford University’s Global Climate and Energy Program receives $100 million from ExxonMobil. The oil giant has recently launched an advertising campaign touting its involvement with the university. Movie producer Steve Bing, a Stanford alumnus, was so appalled by the campaign that he canceled a $2 million pledge to the school.

So Stanford netted $98 million dollars after Bing pouted and went home. I think Stanford can live with that deal.

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley is negotiating a $500 million deal with BP to create the Energy Biosciences Institute on campus.

No way! I also heard that when they aren’t destroying the world by funding higher education, they spend their time torturing puppies.

“Big Oil has an image problem,” said Simpson. “We simply cannot allow them to fix it by turning our respected colleges and universities into ‘Big Oil U’.”

Now isn’t this what you really meant? “Big Oil has an image problem. We simply cannot allow them to fix it because our mission is to perpetuate it.”

Perhaps if the FTCR had done their homework, they might have come across this article:

Okla. Univ. Receives $6M Gift From ConocoPhillips

Source:Journal Record – Oklahoma City
Publication date: 2007-03-16

Frank Phillips of Bartlesville and E.W. Marland of Ponca City – two Oklahoma oil industry pioneers – were among the first private donors to the University of Oklahoma.

Phillips and his brother started Phillips Petroleum and Marland founded Marland Oil, which merged with Continental Oil Co. – Conoco – in 1929. Phillips Petroleum and Conoco merged in 2002.

On Thursday, the company now known as ConocoPhillips and based in Houston continued the tradition of providing financial support to OU with a $6 million contribution allocated to the School of Geology and Geophysics.

Total gifts and pledges to OU from ConocoPhillips now total $33 million, said David L. Boren, OU president.

The FTCR press release closes with this whopper:

The nonpartisan, nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is a leading consumer watchdog group.

Non-partisan? Non-partisan?!! I wonder what definition of non-partisan they are using? When every article that they write about oil companies is riddled with adjectives like “deservedly dirty image” and a “warped view of the world”, they show how much credibility they have by claiming that they are “non-partisan.”

And if that story wasn’t bad enough, this one will really make the FTCR’s blood boil:

ConocoPhillips Contributes $1 Million To Memorial Hermann Life Flight

HOUSTON, Mar. 20, 2007 – ConocoPhillips announced today its contribution of $1 million to Memorial Hermann Life Flight to help with the purchase of six new helicopters that will provide enhanced emergency care to the community.

“Since its inception in 1976, Memorial Hermann’s Life Flight has brought hope to thousands of patients who have required emergency medical care and transportation,” said Phil Frederickson, executive vice president, ConocoPhillips. “By replacing the existing four helicopters and adding two new helicopters, Life Flight will be able to reach many more people who have life-threatening medical conditions.”

They should set up a hotline for consumers to call in and turn in oil companies every time they commit philanthropy. If they like, I can get them a hundred more stories like these. They can issue a scathing press release in response to each story.

March 22, 2007 Posted by | ConocoPhillips, FTCR, Hugo Chavez, oil companies, Oklahoma, OU | 8 Comments