Why Can't Big Oil Match Hugo Chávez?
By Tim Padgett Wednesday, Jan. 07, 2009
Four years ago, Hugo Chávez scored one of the more impressive p.r. coups of the new century when he started delivering free heating oil to low-income Americans. Even if it was political opportunism, as conservative critics insisted, it got home-heating fuel to hundreds of thousands of yanquis during the past four winters, when the price was often skyrocketing. On Monday, however, with world oil prices plunging, the Venezuelan President decided to suspend his large-scale, multistate U.S. program in order to tend to financial concerns at home. Then on Wednesday, at the urging of U.S. politicians whose constituents had come to rely on the oil, Chávez reversed himself and said the heating oil would keep flowing this winter.
All of which raises the question: If Chávez can keep donating fuel even as his oil revenues tumble, why can't any U.S. oil companies step up to do the same?
"So America's fat petro-cats will probably be off the hook again. They'll remain safe inside their arguments that heating-oil aid to the poor should be the purview of the government — as strange as that may sound coming from an industry that was so tight with an outgoing President who championed private charitable initiative over public handouts. What's left is the irony that for four winters now, hundreds of thousands of Americans have had more reason to thank one of the world's most anti-U.S. leaders than their own President or oil companies."