The Producers

How the oilmen in the White House see the world.

  1. Opponents of the Bush energy plan like to accuse its authors of thinking like oilmen. They're right. President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both worked in the petroleum industry, and its worldview permeates the energy policy they unveiled last week. Where the critics are wrong is in the unstated assumption that thinking like oilmen is an unequivocally bad thing—that all energy companies want to do is profiteer and kill caribou. On important questions of policy, the energy-industry worldview is often correct. And where the energy worldview—and the Bush plan—are wrong, it is often because they fail to face the implications of their own thinking.

    To oilmen and oilwomen—as well as their counterparts in the gas, coal, atomic, and hydro industries—modern American history is about the control of energy. The United States began its rise to national greatness in the late nineteenth century, not long after the first oil well was drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania. In the early twentieth century, the country leaped ahead of Britain, Germany, and Japan as the world's leading power by being the first to exploit petroleum on a colossal scale; it fought across the entire globe and won a world war for democratic survival partly through mastery of oil. With peace assured, cheap energy paved the way for dramatic improvement in the average American's quality of life. Today the United States brings high living standards to more than 200 million people, a historically unprecede...