Back during George H. Bush's administration, 27 refineries were shut down by the oil companies because wall street analyst said they were only operating at 11% output and keeping the price of oil at 15 bucks a barrel. Once shut down, the price of oil began to rise. During Clintons term, more oil companies began shutting down refineries to INCREASE profits. The right wing media will have you believe its enviromentalists who are preventing new refineries, yet leave out that the oil companies and the republicans in conjunction with oil companies shut down refineries willingly. Big Oil Looking for a Government Handout By Matt Dougherty Apr 18, 2006, 16:55 Shortly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita blasted through the South, petrochemical refineries in and along the Gulf of Mexico were flooded and damaged, unable to produce gasoline. As a result, the price of gasoline jumped to over $2 a gallon across the country, a 90 percent increase since January 2001. Many gas stations reported that they were running dry and would not be re-fueled until a much later date. Lines of frightened drivers waited in for hours in order to fill up on what gas was left. The media reported that Americans were scared of the monetary effects the increase would have on their families. The United States was now in the midst of what many were calling an "energy crisis." Others believed that this was only a short-term situation. It was how politicians chose to react to the "crisis" which might be the real reason it will ultimately be remembered. "A 'crisis' is something that must be fixed, right now, or a catastrophe will result," University of Texas professor and oil industry expert Dr. David Prindle said. "Such a description does not fit the situation after Katrina. Prices went up. That's all." On Sept. 26, 2005, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex), head of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee, introduced the Gasoline for America's Security Act 2005, to the House of Representatives in what he said was a response to the present energy crisis. The most significant part of the bill gave the authority for the government to subsidize the construction of new refineries for petrochemical companies, despite the fact that the oil companies had intentionally been closing down refineries for years prior to the hurricanes. It would allow for oil companies to construct refineries on military bases and government controlled areas offshore. The bill also included a clause in which several environmental restrictions on the oil companies would be repealed. "The bill was an example of yet another free giveaway for 'big oil'," former Texas Agriculture Commissioner and talk-show-host Jim Hightower said. "They have their hands deep in the pockets of politicians." The bill passed the House of Representatives by two votes on Oct. 7, 2005, with a narrow 212-210 vote. The bill, which was supposed to be open for vote for only five minutes, was held on the floor for 90 minutes, to the chagrin of Democrats who chanted "Shame!Shame!." During that time, the Washington Post reported that Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex) twisted the arms of moderate Republicans who were originally opposed to the legislation, ultimately convincing them to vote 'for' the bill. Environmentalists and their Democrat and Republican allies argued that the country could not stand any relaxation of the Clean Air Act. The critics argued in a year when oil companies were getting ready to announce industry-record profits, and since they were the ones who were shutting down the refineries just four years earlier, shouldn't they be the ones paying for the construction of new refineries. From 1995 to 2001, American oil companies shut down 24 oil refineries along the West Coast. Gas prices in the mid-1990s were low -- too low for the likes of the oil companies. Refineries were operating efficiently, producing large quantities of gasoline and therefore cheapening the cost of gas at the pump. According to a 2001 report by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), oil companies deliberately shut down refineries in the mid-1990s in order to increase the price of gasoline. Wyden based this conclusion on his acquisition of internal oil company documents written in 1996. One Mar. 7, 1996 Internal Texaco document said: "As observed over the last few years and as projected well into the future, the most critical factor facing the refining industry on the West Coast is the surplus refining capacity, and the surplus gasoline production capacity. The same situation exists for the entire U.S. refining industry. Supply margins, and very poor refinery financial results. Significant events need to occur to assist in reducing supplies and or increasing the demand for gasoline." A Nov. 20, 1996 Internal Chevron document said: "A senior energy analyst at the recent API (America Petroleum Institute) convention warned that if the U.S. petroleum industry doesn't reduce it's refining capacity, it will never see any substantial increase in refining margins...However, refining utilization has been rising, sustaining high levels of operations, thereby keeping prices low." "The oil companies are like the old Texas ranchers used to be," Hightower said. "They don't just want their land but they want all the land next to their's too. It doesn't matter how much they end up making, they always want more." Last year, ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips broke profit records across all industries. ExxonMobil at $125 billion made the highest income of any company ever, in the history of the world. "Oil companies' influence is just as great today as it has always been," Hightower said. "Joe Barton, and his cronies, are simply working in the best interest of the oil companies when he composes legislation like this; not in the best interest of the people." According to opensecrets.org, a watchdog group that monitors monetary contributions to politicians, Barton alone has received close to $2 million in campaign contributions from energy companies and their political action committees since he has been in office. The oil and gas industry has been the top industry contributor to his campaign. This does not include contributions from individuals who work for petrochemical companies, though. Last year, employees from Anadarko Petroleum alone, contributed $50,000, opensecrets.org reports. Barton's office would not return World Internet News' phone calls after several messages. "Anybody who has money, and is willing to invest it in politicians, has influence in Texas politics," Prindle said. "Therefore, the oil industry is still important in Texas politics." After weeks of trying to contact ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil for comment, they would not return World Internet News' phone calls. On Oct. 24, 2005, the bill moved to the Senate. No vote was taken. It has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources where it remains.