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Chavez’s Generosity

The Washington Times

Joseph P. Kennedy II The Op-Ed “Shills for Chavez” (Tuesday) condemned the nonprofit Citizens Energy Corp. for accepting a charitable donation of oil to provide much-needed heating assistance to poor, elderly and American Indian families in 23 states — the same kind of help we have provided to poor families for nearly 30 years. Because oil prices have tripled in five years and the federal government has cut its fuel assistance program by 20 percent, we wrote to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and oil companies asking them to provide a small share of their windfall profits — in just five years, the top 10 U.S. oil and gas companies alone generated $818 billion in earnings before taxes — to help ease the burden felt by consumers depending on this commodity to survive. For three years, we have worked with Citgo Petroleum and Venezuela because they were the only company, and the only country, to respond. We acknowledge their generosity as we would recognize any company or country that answers our calls to help the poor. Unfortunately, some find it more appropriate to direct their anger toward President Hugo Chavez by denouncing our work rather than providing some constructive alternative to help about 200,000 low-income households make it through the winter. If there’s something wrong with poor Americans receiving less than one-half of 1 percent of the 500 million barrels of Venezuelan oil that is imported into the United States each year, then isn’t there something also wrong with American businesses and households consuming the other 99.5 percent? We do not condone Mr. Chavez’s actions any more than we condone the actions of other foreign governments with which our country has business relations. While Citizens Energy is called upon to answer for Mr. Chavez, no one asked ExxonMobil’s CEO to justify Exxon’s extensive dealings with Saudi Arabia after its judiciary sentenced a gang rape victim to 200 lashes. If we are truly concerned about moral purity, energy companies that pay to do business in oil-producing countries that do not share America’s views should be held to a higher standard. For further consistency, America shouldn’t import oil from such countries. But be careful — imposing such a doctrine means you’ll be getting out your walking shoes because there won’t be enough oil to drive or fly. Those who claim to be truly concerned about morality should join us in asking Big Oil to share some of its bounty and calling on our government to fully fund the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The only immorality worth discussing is why America would allow millions of its own to be left in the cold.

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