Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big Oil and Health Insurers: Double Standard? You Decide

Dear Mr. President:

As a members of the oil industry, we're writing to express our pleasant surprise at not being actively compared to health insurers by your Administration. We agree with you and your colleagues that, compared to those greedy sharks, we are a beacon of ethical business practice.

As you know, the U.S. Senate has
unveiled its long awaited version of the energy bill. We look forward to an informed and vigorous debate on carbon caps, renewable energy, nuclear power and how we can moderate our national addiction to fossil fuels. We anxiously await the creation of a coherent policy in a manner that meets your call for civility and respect and which, in contrast to the wreckage of the health reform debate, brings credit to our Republic.

Yet, Mr. President, we're spooked. There are some eerie parallels between health and energy reform that could unleash your populist

1) Both industries have experienced serious catastrophes. In health reform, it's been the death spiral of the moribund individual market, while in energy reform it's been an occasional oil slick.

2) Both have seen price run-ups that have harmed our economy and threatened our national security. Yet, we are pleased to note that despite $1200 a month premiums and $2.85/gal gas, our citizens can still afford $4 for a cup of premium coffee.

3) Both have been whipsawed by heart breaking anecdotes. There are the infamous rescissions of cancer patients and the needless death of some dolphins and many oysters.

4) Last but not least, both health care and energy have more than their fair share of tone deaf executives who look conspicuously guilty when pilloried by your Democratic colleagues in Congress. Unlike the health insurance industry, however, we can blame our subcontractors, stretch the legal suits out over a decades and, like the Exxon Valdez, take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Your advisers have been undoubtedly tempted to break out the highly successful health reform playbook to help pass energy reform. They probably want to arrange town hall speeches where you can rail against "greedy" oil companies. They think members of your Administration should ambush our industry with second guesses about decisions we made months ago with all the necessary Federal and State regulatory approvals. They're probably asking that you tilt the political debate in your favor by mentioning the victims by name at every opportunity, condemning multi-millionaire executives and making vague and untrue generalities. Your advisers count on the Democratic majority in Congress to muscle something through.

While that would further energize your base and maybe minimize the coming carnage in the November elections, you've obviously decided that would be a mistake. Not because that would end up creating bad policy that ignores the underlying cost drivers. Not because you'd have to continue to burn up political capital by continuing to defend a reform long after a bill has passed. Not because you'd add taxes and costs as far as the eye could see.

No, Mr. President, you know that the fossil fuel industry is largely global and therefore less vulnerable to U.S. political straw man and ad hominem attacks. Compared to health insurers, we also have a much larger financial base that cannot be easily morphed into a regulated utility. While insurers can bluster about leaving a market, we really mean it and don't care if that means Americans will have to drive weenie econoboxes to unheated homes lit by single small compact fluorescent bulb. China appreciates us.

Thank you Mr. President, we really appreciate the political double standard.

Sincerely yours,

The Oil Industry

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