Thursday, November 17, 2005

Slippery oil

When you have the president of the United States in your pocket, you're not going to let a little thing like lying to Congress scare you:

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.
As for the heads of Shell and BP, it's amazing how little CEOs claim to know about what's going on in their companies. But I can see how meeting with the vice president's energy task force to help craft the administration's enegy policy could slip below the radar. I mean it's not like that could have a profound impact on the company's profits for at least the next four years.

Apparently the verdict in the WorldCom trial hasn't scared executives away from pleading ignorance.


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