Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

Dick Cheney: Vice President of the United States

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

Why is Cheney on this list instead of the man he works for? Because the 64-year-old veep has brought unprecedented clout to his position, taking the lead on everything from national security to energy policy. After stints as a Wyoming congressman (he grew up in Casper), as secretary of defense for President George H. W. Bush, and as CEO of Halliburton, the world's largest oil-services company, Cheney emerged as the ideal candidate to head the administration's National Energy Policy Development Group when Bush took power in 2001. As the leader of this 15-member task force, he masterminded a ground-up restructuring of America's energy policy, convening behind closed doors with oil, gas, coal, and nuclear executives and lobbyists.

On May 17, 2001, when the task-force findings were made public, Big Energy emerged as the clear victor. The very next day, the president issued an executive order that urged federal agencies to begin expediting gas- and oil-drilling-permit requests on public lands.

The report also became the foundation for Bush's as yet unpassed energy bill, which would offer hefty subsidies to energy companies and step up oil, gas, and mining activities on federal lands.

Finally, the report led to the formation of another team of policy strategists, the Energy Streamlining Task Force, which has been compiling a list of backlogged drilling-permit requests for areas within the Bureau of Land Management's jurisdiction. The new approach definitely seems to be working: Drilling permits were up 62 percent in 2004.

SOUND BITE: "I see this... as one giant giveaway to special interests," Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) has said about the Cheney-stamped energy bill. "With a half-trillion-dollar deficit, we're giving tax credits for—guess who?—the oil industry, which, last time I checked, was doing really well."

NEXT UP: Bush's national energy plan jumped every legislative hurdle in 2003 except the Senate, where it died in a filibuster over exemptions for corporate polluters. A major Bush-Cheney goal—opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum exploration—moved one step closer to reality in mid-March, when the Senate voted 51-49 to approve drilling as part of its budget deliberations.

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