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Capping the Oil Spill in American Politics

Oil and the petroleum industry’s profits stand at the center of the American economy, society and polity. We need to push the oil industry aside and put working people and their needs—for jobs, health care, education, and social well being at the center.

Dan La Botz, Socialist Webzine

Submitted by Evergreene Digest Contributing Editor John Stoltenberg


The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico represents the latest in a series of atrocities committed by petroleum companies against the environment and against humanity. Yet, terrible and tragic as the BP spill is, it is merely a marginal event in the long and sordid history of the oil companies in American and world history. The petroleum companies have been at the center of American politics for a hundred years, deter¬mining our domestic agenda, our environmental policy, and our foreign policy. To be an American politician was to be baptized in oil. To be an admiral or a general was to be a warrior around the globe for the petroleum industry.

Foreign Policy

By the 1920s, with the rise of the internal combustion engine and the automobile and the conversion of the U.S. Navy from coal to oil, petroleum became the most sought after commodity in the world. Oil became a strategic commodity, a necessity of modern life and modern warfare. From that time on, the oil corporations moved to the center of American politics. President Warren G. Harding’s cabinet was known as the “oil gang,” and the cabinet level corruption involved in the attempt of private parties and corporations to get at the Navy oil reserves led to the Teapot Dome Scandal for which Harding’s administration is best remembered.