America, Fight Back: Nationalize the Oil Industry!


“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.”

— Ambrose Bierce

Are you sick and tired of being at the mercy of the grasping plutocrats who run Big Oil? Gasoline is now selling at $3.50 a gallon, as the price of a barrel of oil nears $120, with no end in sight to further increases. Meanwhile, the American economy is sinking faster than the Titanic. The dollar, too, is in sharp decline. Mortgage foreclosures are at depression era highs. Over three million middle class jobs have been exported in recent years. The Wall Street wise guys are in near-panic mode. The Fed, after 19 years of Alan Greenspan’s gross ineptness, is held in deep contempt. Yet, Big Oil keeps sucking off the American consumer, with a devil-be-damned attitude, while acting like a law unto itself. I say: Fight back America and nationalize the oil industry!

Take ExxonMobil for instance, Big Oil’s bully boy. “[It] inspires fear… in the industry for its ruthlessness… In 2007, it recorded the most profitable year of any firm in American history, with net income of $40.6 billion.” [1] In 2006, the big three, ExxonMobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips posted combined “windfall profits of $72 billion.” In 2006 alone, ExxonMobil generated “$108 million profits a day, or $4.5 million an hour.” (2) It goes without saying that the Iraq War has also been a Las Vegas-like jackpot for the U.S. oil companies. So, too, do their profits go up when the Bush-Cheney Gang threatens war with Iran.

According to Bill Van Auken, Big Oil owes its record profits to “gouging at the gas pumps…The fleecing of average working people on gasoline sales is supplemented by an array of corporate welfare measures, tax breaks and royalty relief worth tens of billions of dollars…The massive oil profits once again point to the necessity of taking these corporations, which promote social inequality, militarism and the destruction of the environment, ‘out of private hands’ and turn them into ‘private utilities.’ Only in this way can society begin to confront the urgent dangers posed to the future of humanity by war and climate change.” [2]

Legal background: In 1952, during the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman ordered the seizure of the steel industry. He said: “The steel industry has never been so profitable as it is today…The steel companies now want to double their money.” [3] Doesn’t’ that line sound familiar? In 1962, President John F. Kennedy was successful after some arm-twisting to get the Steel Industry to maintain prices, without resorting to a government take over. Although the Supreme Court struck down Truman’s Executive Order to nationalize the steel industry as unconstitutional, it was only by a 6 to 3 vote. The majority made it clear, however, that its decision might have been different had an Act of Congress authorized the president to take such action.

The dissenting justices emphasized that the president did have such powers even without congressional approval, assuming a national emergency existed. They wrote: The president isn’t a “automaton impotent to exercise the powers of Government at a time when “the survival of the Republic itself may be at stake…The steel mills were seized ‘for a public use.’ The power of eminent domain…is an essential attribute of sovereignty and has long been recognized as a power of the federal government.” [4]

As for the Bush-Cheney Gang doing anything about Big Oil’s bloated profiteering, well, just forget about it! We will have to wait until these bums are out of office. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in Bush’s two presidential elections, oil and gas companies gave Republicans, “79 percent of their $61.5 million in contributions.” [5] In addition, President Bush family’s ties to “Big Oil” go back generations, as do V. P. Dick Cheney’s. [6]

More on Big Oil’s obscene profits. Published reports show that in 2007, the CEO of Halliburton earned about $8,300 an hour, while the CEO of ExxonMobil raked in about $13,700 an hour. When, in April, 2008, Congress went through the motions, at a public hearing, of demanding that Big Oil justify its windfall profits, its CEOs replied that they are in a boom-and-bust industry and need the huge profits to “pay for future oil development.” Incidentally, the surge in oil prices may spark a worldwide recession.

At press time, soaring oil prices have forced some airlines in the U.S. out of business and into bankruptcy. This means less competition. Also, an industry spokesperson said the public should expect “more delays” and “higher fares” this coming summer. Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson said: “Domestic carriers would need to raise fares ‘by 15 to 20 percent’ just to break even.” [7]

Globally, the trend is towards nationalization of the oil industry. Presently, this is the situation in Russia, China, Venezuela, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Libya, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and mostly recently Ecuador, to list some of the key Petrostates. According to Mother Jones: “State-run firms exercise exclusive domain over roughly 77 percent” of the world’s oil. [1]

On the home front, fuel, particularly the cost of diesel fuel, has now surpassed labor as the prime cost for the trucking industry. This is going to mean higher food prices. The truckers’ cost will be pass down the line and will eventually hit the consumer–the working class stiff and the poor. Cabbies are feeling the pinch, too, because of the rising cost of gas. “Their take-home pay is thinner than it use to be.” Retailers are starting to complain, also, because shoppers are beginning to stay home rather than get into the car and ride out to the mall. Store owners are trying to “figure out a way” to get people back into their cars. [8]

Finally, I think Mike Whitney hit the nail on the head about this subject matter in a piece for Counterpunch, nearly two years ago. He wrote: “Nationalizing the oil industry should be the central tenet of any progressive political movement. Evidence of the industry’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq as well as its obvious complicity in corrupting the political system should provide ample proof that the oil giants are ‘a clear and present danger to democracy’ and need to be put under state control.” [9]


[1]. Mother Jones, May/June, 2008, “Put a Tyrant in Your Tank,” by Joshua Kurlantzick.

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ftrials/conlaw/youngstown.html and

[5]. “Big Oil’s Big Time Looting” by Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe, 09/02/05.


[7]. Baltimore Sun, April 23, 2008, From Wire Reports

[8]. Baltimore Sun, April 22, Adam Schreck

and “The Sorrows of Empire” by Chalmers Johnson.