Why Hide the Energy Task Force

Once the CIA released its Crown Jewels, it was only a matter of time before the list of Cheney’s Energy Task Force meetings would be liberated.

A confidential list prepared by the Bush administration shows thatCheney and his aides had already held at least 40 meetings withinterest groups, most of them from energy-producing industries. By thetime of the meeting with environmental groups, according to a former White House official who provided the list to The Washington Post, the initial draft of the task force was substantially complete and President Bush had been briefed on its progress.

It’s loaded with big oil executives, sure, but the list raises questions about why Cheney would fight so hard to keep it secret. I would suggest the two most important details from this story are the following: First, the observation that the actual Energy Bill had very different emphases than the Task Force report, which talked a lot about conservation and renewables.

The task force issued its report on May 16, 2001. Though the reportwas roundly criticized by environmental groups at the time, some energyexperts say that in retrospect it appears better balanced than theadministration’s actual policy.

Divided into eight chapters, thereport correctly forecast higher energy prices, stressed energyefficiency and conservation, and pushed for boosting domesticconventional energy supplies and increasing use of renewable energy.Although it advocated wider drilling and omitted climate-changemeasures, it also said that "using energy more wisely" was the nation’s"first challenge."

Some key proposals, such as opening the ArcticNational Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, have never won congressionalapproval, but some measures to encourage oil and gas production, coaloutput, and the development of biofuels and nuclear power have beenincluded in Bush’s budgets and in the 2005 energy bill.

And, the detail that Cheney had some meetings with people outside the realm of the Task Force.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow. So he wanted to keep it secret not to hide the fact that he was in the pocket of the energy industries, but to hide the fact that he was worse than an energy-industry dominated task force.

    Once again, the Bush Administration is always worse than you imagine, even if you take this rule into account.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The easy — and unsatisfying — explanation is that Cheney is quite simply obsessed with secrecy for its own sake, in all matters small and large and will fight to defend that secrecy even if little is directly at staek. The corollary to that idea is that even if secrecy was not as important in that particular case, he would want to defend it to avoid any precedent for disclosing anything that he’s up to.

    All of the above probably figures into Cheney’s going to the mattress to keep the participants of the Energy Task Force secret.

    However, there may be a lot more at stake here than simply blowing by the recommendations of the Task Force, and it has to do with the war. **Speculation Alert** This is speculative, but needs to be pointed out. The cuckoo-birds at Judicial Watch had a FOIA suit against the Commerce Department which managed to turn up a number of documents before the spigot was abruptly closed. These documents lack any context that would help us understand how and why they turned up in connection with the task force, but given their nature, it is difficult to imagine a reasonable innocent explanation. Those documents are titled as follows:

    *Iraq Oil Map
    *Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts – Part 1
    *Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts – Part 2
    *United Arab Emirates Oil Map
    *United Arab Emirates: Major Oil and Natural Gas Development Projects
    *Saudi Arabia Oil Map
    *Saudi Arabia: Major Oil and Natural Gas Development Projects

    Again, given what ultimately happened, innocuous explanations for these documents do not exactly leap to mind. Cheney’s desire to keep all aspects fo the Task Force — even its participants — secret could well have been motivated by a desire to keep a lid on early previews of his plans for attacking Iraq and parceling out its oil development contracts to appropriate â€suitors.â€

    You can look at the whole puzzling parcel of documents at: http://www.judicialwatch.org/iraqi-oil-maps.shtml

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well, that’s my wildarsed speculation, anyway. Hide the fact taht he got–and ignored–sound advice.

  4. Neil says:

    Ironic BushCo is always crowing about â€show trials†when discussion congressional overight but what do you call the Energy Task Force? It was a romp, a great farce!

    Cheney subverted the process. the chief executive’s own national energy policy. That’s how Cheney operates. He is a SUBVERSIVE.

    I hate people like that. They are completly untrsutworthy and what’s worst, consider their own judement to be superior to the best judgment of a collection of experienced professionals.

    Beyond that look at the results. If Cheney intended gas to be priced $3.00 agallon then he was successful, otherwise it’s heckuva job Cheney.

  5. Neil says:

    The guy that runs the Whitehead Institute at MIT was asked to participate on one of the the president’s task groups, the one associated with genetic research. He too found that he and the other experts were wasting their time because at every turn politics, frequently in spite of current science, drove policy.

  6. Sojourner says:

    It set the tone for the entire Bush administration: Seek advice and then ignore it! It is public posturing, I think, to appear to be considering all the alternatives, but in the end the only one that really matters is how it will benefit the biggest political contributors? Considering that the VP has ties to Halliburton, he would certainly benefit through the largesse of his friends. Of course, continuing reliance on oil for energy benefits Big Oil, the Bush Family, the Saudis and anyone else who has a stake in it.

  7. Anonymous says:


    Yeah, that’s definitely an aspect of it. But I’m more intersted in the meeting with John Browne than I am in a lot of the meetings that made the list.

  8. Anonymous says:

    EW: That off-the-books meeting with BP’s Browne certainly is tantalizing. And, btw, I certainly did not mean to pooh-pooh the idea that among Cheney’s motivations was his desire to conceal how far beyond the industry’s wish-list he was willing to go.

  9. Virginia Loridans says:

    Cheney and Brown met to divide the Azerbaijan pie betwen the the US and the UK. They have jointly proped up a tinpot dictator’s son to ensure that the Azeri people do not profit from a restructuring of the oil deal made with the present Azeri dictator’s father when oil was $8.00 a barrel.

  10. prostratedragon says:

    You know, I’ve never thought that the oil companies as a group were as stupid as Cheney is —

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This essay elegantly demonstrates the Cheney model of leadership, a key aspect of which is that to run the government from the OVP required circumventing the normal policy process as well as imposing iron curtain levels of secrecy.

    A nominal task force is charged with developing policy. That makes it routine for the OVP and WH staff to devote resources, have meetings, do analyses and prepare reports, all while saying that work is in process and â€we can’t talk about it nowâ€. This process develops leads and gives a broader group a sense that it’s â€involved†in making decisions, but hides the process Cheney actually used to make those decisions. It may also hide the decisions themselves, since the public and even those normally involved in the policy process may think they’ve agreed one thing while a much smaller group implements another policy altogether.

    This takes place in the first few weeks that Cheney-Bush are in office. Which means that Cheney knew explicitly how he would handle Bush and â€his†WH before he set foot in it. This is reinforced by considering that while Rove and Baker were concentrating on skewering the Florida recount, Cheney was already reviewing the short list of his – not Bush’s – appointees to various key agencies. The silent coup started before Bush even came to Washington.

  12. John Lopresti says:

    A Supreme Court argument transcript is there. It reads like a classic states secrets defense without explicitly declaring it as such. Plaintiffs wanted to know what it took to influence actual policy, but the government said all decisionmaking was conducted among conferees who were government officials protected by Fourthbranch firewall confidentiality privilege. The composition of the Supreme court has realigned even more tightly as inclined to support secrecy in government with the two new justices added a few years after the Energy Task Force wrote its report. It seems the new Scotus website’s transcripts are available only beginning the next year, so the one to which JudicialWatch and I link is a little cryptic appearing in that the identity of each speaker is missing, leaving to the reader to deduce who is asking questions from the bench. Think I will take a copy on the laptop the next time we trek to the duckblind, maybe a certain hunter there who never discuses policy while hunting might remember whose questions were whose.

  13. zhiv says:

    Now that the players and the timeline are finally available, I suppose it’s possible to start connecting a few dots, and this idea that the task force veiled the pre-determined policy is the first one.

    Since they’ve been obvious crooks and liars from the beginning, it’s always a good rule of thumb to assume the worst. And the energy policy (not the task force) was always the mideast foreign policy, control of the pipeline route in Afghanistan (poppy fields forever) and getting troops into Iraq. Unfortunately it all just leads to the obnoxious hall of mirrors and tinfoil hat that says all Cheney needed to put the policy in place was his own Pearl Harbor. Which would be a lot harder to dismiss if Bushco had actually caught or even just contained Osama Bin Laden, instead of where we are today. Powerful misguided morons, very dangerous.

  14. JohnJ says:

    I’ve always thought that the Big Dick wanted to hide his Iraq/Iran war oil access/rebuilding plans so he could claim, sometime later, that he had to do it whenever he did. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Blackwater and Haliburton reps were at these Energy Meetings?

    This whole thing bugs the crap out of me. â€Convenient†coincidence’s are extremely rare. How did CheneyCo get so â€lucky†as to have a military plan in place BEFORE 9/11?

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think Cheney didn’t want to name the folks who attended the secret energy meetings ’cause he didn’t want them to later be subpoenaed by a future Congress; or have a future president nosy around should Junior and he not win in ’04.

    Personally, I say they talked about Iraqi oil and how it might affect oil markets way, way before 9/11.

    Of course, this is the discussion that can never be talked about.

  16. Jodi says:

    Well the once ballyhooed Energy Meetings amounted to nothing.

    All those apeeches, and law suits, and chest beatings, and hair pullings out.


    But wait, someone says. ~Wait there might be something in this one (1) meeting that is important!~

    Gee. Again you are going off on a tangent.

    That is why Cheney is so secret. He knows that his opponents will never be satisfied. So he might as well give them a little trouble.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The whole presidency was about oil energy which ment going into Iraq to get it. In ground oil in Texas and Oklahoma was not worth the cost of recovery until oil went over $35 a barrell at todays $74.oo a barrell these companies are making huge windfall profits with regulatory protection by the administration. They have enough to fund a political war for decedes as in I’ll be backâ€. A lot of people need to wake up. War in the middle east was never about democracy. Remember the Brits had a long unsuccessful history in stabilizing the Mid East. McCain said it last night in the fillibuster when he pointed out that the largest oil deposits are there. It is KEEPING THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX FUELED UP!!!
    They will never leave if they are not impeached and the dems will be blamed for the mess in 08-09.