The U.S. oil industry may have found its dream team with Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush's pick of Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton Company, as his vice presidential running mate.
American energy firms could get a break from environmental regulations and policies imposed under the Clinton-Gore administration that industry representatives claim have discouraged domestic oil production and left the United States vulnerable to foreign suppliers like OPEC.
Bush's prior experience as an independent oil operator had already won him industry favor, and that popularity is likely to grow with Cheney, who headed the world's largest oil field service company, now joining the ticket. Both politicians' public statements show they would favor a stronger energy policy than Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in terms of increasing U.S. oil production, which is at its lowest level in half a century.
Domestic oil production has fallen from 7.2 million bpd in 1992, the year before the Clinton-Gore administration came to power, to 5.8 million bpd in the first half of this year, according to the Energy Department. Bush said he favors giving oil firms drilling access to more federal lands, including the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
Gore opposes drilling in the refuge and has even gone as far as threatening to ban all offshore oil drilling, which accounts for about 20 percent of U.S. crude supplies. Cheney, while serving in Congress in the mid 1980s, Co.-sponsored legislation to allow oil drilling in the Arctic refuge.
Despite concerns raised by environmentalist group the Sierra Club, Cheney's environmental record has apparently improved enough for Halliburton to win an energy award from the Environmental Protection Agency in 1996. Halliburton was named EPA's Green Lights Corporate Partner of the Year by voluntarily agreeing to install energy efficient lighting in the company's buildings.
EPA Administrator Carol Browner declined to answer directly if she was worried oil firms would have more free rein to run their operations under a Bush-Cheney administration. "I would be concerned about anybody who would weaken (EPA's) efforts," she said. - (Reuters)