Transcript: Thom Hartmann asks Elizabeth Ames Jones, does America have what it takes to be energy independent? 30 Mar '10.

Thom Hartmann: So what’s the future of carbon-based products in America? What’s the future of our energy supply? What’s the future of the planet, is it melting down? What’s the future of our independence from foreign oil, particularly foreign oil coming from countries that tend to support people who like to do things like fly airplanes into buildings?

Elizabeth A. Jones is with us, Elizabeth Ames Jones. She is the Texas Railroad Commissioner which has nothing to do with railroads. The railroad commissioner is in charge of oil, gas and fuel in that state. She’s running for the US senate as a Republican from Texas. is her website. Elizabeth, welcome to the program.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Thom, it’s great to hear your voice and thanks for having me on.

Thom Hartmann: Well thank you for coming on the program. I’m, first of all, you’re running for US senate from Texas. Who are you trying to unseat?

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Well, you know, that is a ways down the road because we’ve got a senator, Kay Hutchison, whose term is up in 2012 and so yes I will be running for that seat. But, you know, I’ve got the greatest job in the world here in Texas until that time comes.

Thom Hartmann: Right, but you do have a campaign website up,

Elizabeth Ames Jones: I do, yes.

Thom Hartmann: Is, if she succeeds in beating Rick Perry. She’s running against…

Elizabeth Ames Jones: No no, that’s all done. That’s all over and governor Rick Perry is going to be on the ballot for the November election.

Thom Hartmann: He won the primary? Ah, okay, see I’ve been out of touch with Texas politics.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: So that’s sort of kind of, yeah, well listen. If you even live here it’s hard to follow. You’re doing pretty good for being in Oregon but that’s all been taken care of. But you know I learned from even as a little girl that you just, you’re prepared for anything that comes your way. So that’s my plan is to be prepared.

Thom Hartmann: So you’re planning on 2012. Okay let’s talk about oil then. Let’s talk about energy policy in the United States.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: That’s a great idea. And it was great to see you and I want to thank you.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah, you and I were on a panel a couple of weeks ago and had some of this discussion. Exxon Mobil in 2008 earned 45.2 billion dollars. More profit, over the last two years they’ve earned more profit than any corporation in US history. They are getting 13 billion dollars in tax payer funded giveaways over the next ten years. Somehow this just stinks. They get 13 billion dollars in subsidies to write off some payoffs from us. They earn a 45 billion dollar profit. They donate 1.8 million to the Bush Cheney campaign and then they give 104 million dollars in campaign contributions to other candidates.

The influence of big oil seems particularly pervasive in Texas. What are you doing about it?

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Well, and that is what is such a myth about big oil because really the oil and gas industry is made up of small and medium and there are some large independents too and it is a fascinating and very complex sort of structure. I wish every class could use this kind of industry as a way to teach economics because there’s so much, you’ve got global economics, you’ve got weather that comes into prices, you’ve got consumption, you’ve got supply and demand.

But anyway, I don’t know about Exxon Mobil and I’d heard that number before. I also think it’s important when you look at that to see what exactly they are paying in taxes and a lot of the definition of what a subsidy is. Sometimes what a subsidy is, is just, you know, maybe a royalty when you go out and you’re drilling in the outer continental shelf, the federal government basically has a deal to incentivize people to go drill out there sometimes. You know it’s like sort of a, if you were getting into a deal, an operating agreement with somebody to drill on your property.

Thom Hartmann: Well it’s like, advising me to buy a house by saying I’ll get a tax deduction on my mortgage in other words.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Well let me tell you, we’re seeing a lot of that aren’t we.

Thom Hartmann: But let’s, to take this to the larger picture. The oil companies in the United States have gotten a free ride ever since Colonel Drake drilled his first oil well back in 1865 in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in as much as they produce extraordinary externalities, you know, from the river that cought, the Cuyahoga River catching on fire to Lake Erie being dead for some time, to right now in the United States, estimates of at least 10 thousand cancers a year around this country, hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma as a direct consequence of auto exhaust and in particular diesel exhaust.

Not to mention mercury, now granted most of the mercury comes from, that’s in our rivers and our water, comes from coal fired power plants rather than oil fired power plants. But there are a lot of nasty things that are the product and this is, and we haven’t even talked about global warming.

There’s just a lot of nasty externalities. And the oil industry is not paying one damn penny for any of this in other countries, they tax the oil companies and say we’re gonna use that money to pay for those externalities. We’re gonna use that money to pay for all those asthmatic kids. We’re gonna use that money to pay for treating those cancers. Why not in the United States?

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Well I have to respectfully disagree with the notion that all of these are scientifically proven. I don’t know about all of the cancers that are caused from what but I definitely think that as Americans we always want to be finding a better way to do things and so. But we are going to need hydrocarbons. You were talking about cars and gasoline and of course we talked about in that panel the potential to replace that with natural gas, to cut down on the use of gasoline from refined crude oil.

Thom Hartmann: It's far less toxic.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: What?

Thom Hartmann: Which is far less toxic.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Well, it’s not toxic at all if you go to it the right way.

Thom Hartmann: Well, it’s still producing carbon dioxide and which is a whole separate, like I said, we can talk about global warming separately. But I’m just talking about the simple externalities that, and here’s the other one. We’re spending, we have the largest military in the world. We spend more on our military than every other country on earth combined. And one of the major things that our military does is it protects our oil lanes. Now why, if…

Elizabeth Ames Jones: The stability in the Middle East is certainly, yeah.

Thom Hartmann: Right. And you know Jimmy Carter was pretty outspoken about you know this is, this will not stand. We’re never going to import more oil than we have in the past. And, you know, and a fine thing it was, I think. And yet Reagan blew up his programs and here we are now. We’re importing more than twice as much oil now as we were when Jimmy Carter was President.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Yeah, well, you know, it’s all… Yeah yeah. Well I think some of these, you know things are sort of in a simplistic way that you are describing them, and I’ve got to suggest that when you peel away the onions and you get to the dynamic modeling of the costs and everything, regarding taxes on big oil or rather what they, their profits. There’s that story.

Now here’s, let’s talk about security in the Middle East. There is no doubt that our military is over there making sure that the balance of power is creating a safety zone, a buffer zone for America. And actually I do believe that the responsible production of our own hydrocarbons here at home and in the outer continental shelf, and there are other countries where they are finding reserves off shore. In Brazil, countries who are our friends, and even some countries in the Middle East who we do do business with.

I am all for trading with people who are our friends. But gosh I hate to be so dependent on imports from and some of that does come from places who are not, do not have our best interests at heart. I hate that and I don’t know, Thom. We’re the next generation and you know why can’t we find a way to insure that we responsibly drill here when we can and that’s our bridge to the future.

Thom Hartmann: Why can’t we find a way to responsibly capture the hundreds of thousands of gigawatts of solar power that are here in the United States?

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Yeah. Listen, I am all, you know and ideally that’s the thing about, I feel like really, you know, and I hear you, and I don’t have time to tell you everything on this show. I hope I’ll have you back if I behave okay.

Thom Hartmann: No we have a little less than a minute left actually.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: But you know you could put solar panels on top of roof tops for generating even, you know, small generation plants for buildings. And I think it is so great that we are going to be moving in that direction. But I do not believe that it is realistic or even practical, particularly in today’s economy, that we throw hydrocarbons under the bus regardless on what, your feeling about you know the generation of them, and of course it’s, as it moves forward we’ll get cleaner and cleaner burning to things like natural gas. But nevertheless it’s a great bridge to the future. And that’s what I like to call for.

Thom Hartmann: Well we definitely have to have a transition if we’re going to move to renewables and that’s a good first step.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Well, thank you so much Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Elizabeth Ames Jones, you’re welcome. is her campaign website. And Elizabeth Jones, the Texas Railroad Commissioner. Thanks for dropping by today.

Elizabeth Ames Jones: Thank you very much, talk to you soon.

Thom Hartmann: Good talking with you.

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