It’s an oily business

The cheerleaders of the oil oligarchy are in the forefront of efforts to discredit Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s current leader. They suggest he’s too chummy with Castro, insolent in his remarks directed at the United States, just too lippy to represent a Third World Country. Don’t people like him know their place? We may just have to bomb them or invade, except we do buy a lot of oil from him.

Of course there are other differences between countries, too. Everyone recalls that during the OPEC embargo of the early 1970s, oil from our own gulf region was in short supply. The Northeast was hurting from the pinch while some gulf residents sported the bumper sticker, “Let ‘em freeze in the dark.” More recently as poor people in the Northeast were struggling with the high cost of heating oil, Chavez stepped forward and gave them some at no charge.

Recently in our country, Exxon CEO Lee Raymond retired. In 1993 through 2005, his compensation totaled $686 million, but he was never known to speak disrespectfully of his country. His lack of respect is more subtle, e.g. in his disregard for its environment. The Exxon Valdez spill remains uncompensated; the company managed to get the fine reduced to $50 million and now is back in court appealing that figure. Maybe next time Cheney holds a secret meeting of energy leaders, Chavez could be invited. He seems to understand our country’s interests in a way that would help.

— Allen Thomas

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