It takes real balls for the oil industry to fight against transparency and accountability in the middle of a massive oil spill, but that’s precisely what the American Petroleum Institute (API) is doing at the present moment. Even as the spill pours vast quantities of oil in to the Gulf and threatens Louisiana’s wetlands, API is working hard to defeat an amendment that would require all oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to report how much they pay foreign governments for access to resources. The amendment, which supporters are trying to attach to the financial reform bill, is modeled on the Energy Security through Transparency Act, which was introduced last fall by Senators Ben Cardin and Richard Lugar.
“While API supports the goals of the amendment, we oppose the unilateral approach to revenue disclosure taken in the amendment, API feels that requiring only U.S-listed extractive companies to disclose revenues creates a competitive disadvantage for these companies in the global energy marketplace,” the Institute said in a letter to key lawmakers last week. In other words, API opposes the goals of the amendment.
Senator Cardin’s staff offered a rebuttal of the API argument, noting that the amendment applies to a large number of foreign companies as well as U.S.
firms and that it “levels the playing field” because it would require openness about payments to countries that currently offer little or no transparency at all, such as Russia, China, Burma, and Cambodia.
“While BP in particular and the oil industry in general are fighting a PR battle regarding the Gulf of Mexico spill, they are also fighting a political battle on Capitol Hill to ensure that much of their financial transactions around the world remain shrouded in secrecy,” says Ian Gary, senior policy manager for Extractive Industries at Oxfam.