Thursday, December 01, 2005

Oil Execs: We Can Explain

It depends on what you mean by "participate." Last month, the CEOs of the biggest US oil companies appeared before the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees. When asked, the executives answered that they either did not participate in Dick Cheney's energy task force or didn't know the answer to the question. A White House document subsequently released showed that representatives from four of those oil companies did meet with Cheney's staff. Were the executives lying? The Washington Post, which uncovered the White House memo, reports that the Senate staffers got right on it:
Last week, the Republican staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee suggested that the executives did not mislead the committee because whatever they did with the task force did not meet the legal definition of "participate."
OK then, what did happen?
After the Post report, the energy panel asked the executives to clarify their testimony. The committee released the carefully crafted responses yesterday.
Ross Pillari, chief executive of BP America, said in his letter that company representatives met with task force staff "and provided them with comments on a range of energy policy matters." He said his response at the hearing -- that he did not know -- was truthful.
John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil, said that to his knowledge the company did not meet with the task force. However, he said, Shell representatives "did meet with the administration -- including the Vice President and his staff -- on a broad range of energy policy issues."
James J. Mulva, chairman of ConocoPhillips, said that he answered the question "based upon my knowledge of Phillips' conduct prior to the merger with Conoco and on my knowledge of ConocoPhillips' conduct subsequent to the merger." Officials of Conoco met with task force staff before the merger.
Chevron, whose statement was previously released, said the company provided written recommendations on energy policy to President Bush but did not participate in task force meetings. Exxon Mobil, which also previously made its statement public, said the company did not participate in the task force; but the company said it presented information on global energy supply and demand to an administration official.
As previously noted in this space, the executives don't have to worry about perjury since Senate Commerce Committee chairman Ted Stevens saw to it that they were excused from the standard ritual of being sworn in.
Washington is a tough town. It helps to have friends.

1 Comments:

Blogger Dana Garrett said...

"the Republican staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee suggested that the executives did not mislead the committee because whatever they did with the task force did not meet the legal definition of "participate."

Isn't that a bit like saying, "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is."

10:30 PM, December 01, 2005  

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