Bush Too Cozy With Big Oil?

The resignation of a disgraced former official on the White House Council on Environmental Quality to join Exxon Mobil Corp. was an example of coziness between the Bush administration and the oil industry, White House critics say.

Philip Cooney resigned as chief of staff of the White House council last Friday, two days after The New York Times reported that he edited some descriptions of climate research in a way that cast doubt on links between greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures.

The White House has denied that Cooney watered down the impact of global warming, and said that Cooney, who will work for Exxon in the fall, had been looking for another job for some time.

“He had been looking to move on to other opportunities for some time … a few months at least,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “It’s unrelated in any way to the news reports of last week.”

President Bush had not been aware that Cooney was taking a job at Exxon, McClellan said. “We wish him well, we appreciate his service.”

Democrats renewed long-standing criticism of close ties between the administration and the oil industry, citing Cooney taking a position at Exxon immediately after leaving the White House as an example. Cooney had been brought into the administration after serving as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the main trade group for the nation’s largest oil companies.


“This is just one more example of how the Bush White House is bought and sold by the very industries it is supposed to regulate,” Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said.

“The Bush Administration has made it clear that when the chips are down they stand on the side of protecting the oil industry and other elite special interests, not the American people and the environment,” Dean said in a statement.

Exxon Mobil said it does not hire people for their politics, and had hired Cooney at the same time it employed the communications director of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat. Cooney was hired to work in the company’s public affairs group in Dallas, Texas, not as a lobbyist, the oil company said in a statement.

The Democratic criticism was lobbed on a day when Bush made a speech to promote his energy agenda, in which he reiterated that the United States must take steps to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

“Our dependence on foreign oil is like a foreign tax on the American dream. And that tax is growing every year,” Bush said. “My administration is doing all we can to help ease the problem.”

Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat who ran against Bush in the presidential election last year, said Bush’s energy plan was not the solution to rising energy costs or dependence on foreign oil.

“Instead, their energy policy is the place where cozy business connections, secret deals and industry campaign contributions come together to keep us dependent on foreign oil and keep consumers paying through the nose at the pump,” Kerry said.