Activist and scholar Antonia Juhasz says the incoming administration of Barack Obama presents an "incredibly hopeful" opportunity to end "the immense, profound and unique influence the oil industry had" on America during the Bush administration.
She urged a mostly receptive audience at Carnegie Mellon University on Nov. 19 to redirect the grass-roots efforts that helped elect Obama, organizing around energy issues instead. She advocated holding the president-elect to his campaign promises "to implement a windfall tax on this industry ... and to direct that money to a massive work project in public transit ... and [to encourage] local businesses to do alternative energy."
"It's almost now more important to be doing this work ... following the election," Juhasz told the crowd of about 100 people. "There is a whole new world ... and a whole different set of challenges."
Juhasz, who can be seen on YouTube protesting in front of Chevron's headquarters, has just published The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry -- and What We Must Do to Stop It.
She recounted the power and eventual dissolution of the Standard Oil trust into 43 separate companies ... and the wave of later deregulation which allowed most of those companies to merge again. That reversal got underway during the Reagan administration, and culminated in the creation of ExxonMobil.
"It's taken about 100 years, but these parts have found their way back together," Juhasz said. And today, as in the late 1800s, oil conglomerates "have risen to such economic power" that they once again "govern the government," influencing national policy to achieve their own goals.
As an example, Juhasz cited the influence of neoconservative think-tank Project for a New American Century. Beginning in 1997, the group had posited the need for regime change in Iraq, for more access to oil "'to secure the American empire' -- those are their words, not mine," Juhasz emphasized. These goals were enshrined in national policy by the Bush administration, she added. But in less than a decade, the oil companies will be "running out of their own oil [while] most of the world's oil" is either already spoken for or else "very hard to get to. They need to get to more oil and they need governments to help them get there."
Juhasz believes the American military is still being positioned to advance oil interests in future endeavors around the world.
Back on American soil, the course the average citizen should take to end our dependence on oil companies is clear, she said: "Very, very simply, and it is not a mystery, [the solution] is to reduce consumption."