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KPBS Commentaries

Oil profits and the Mount Soledad Cross

You could feel the outrage gathering last week as people anticipated the latest report on quarterly oil company profits. And when the news came out last week ($10.3 billion for Exxon alone) we heard the predictable angry comments and accusations of price gauging.

But I am not outraged that oil companies are making a huge pile of money. As far as I can tell they got it fair and square in the free marketplace. Some people would have you believe that big oil is violating antitrust laws. If that's so, then let the evidence come forward and let the trial commence. Otherwise, let's cancel the righteous indignation.

Oil companies are making a bundle because we use a lot of their product and we're willing to pay what's they're asking at the gas pump. In the process, we're belching out carbon dioxide, warming the planet and hastening environmental catastrophe.


Look, if we really want to stick it to the oil companies, our government should immediately raise the gas tax by a dollar a gallon. Demand for oil would go down and so would Exxon's earnings. Then we could twist the knife by plowing all of that extra tax revenue into developing cars that don't run on fossil fuel.

Of course, none of this will happen anytime soon. And until it does, oil would seem to be a good investment.

Washington gets cross

Just when it looked like San Diego's Mount Soledad Cross was going to be moved off of public land, Congress is stepping in to keep it where it is, or at least to prolong the court battle. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have voted to seize the land around the cross, which is owned by the city, to make it a federal monument. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation.

I don't have strong feelings about whether having the cross on public land is unconstitutional. And if Congress can settle the issue by taking the land, that's fine with me. But I suspect this just means the litigation will move to a different venue and the arguments will shift to interpretations of the U.S. (as opposed to the state) Constitution.


I'd bet that most of the politicians who are voting to make the cross a national monument don't really care about the church/state issues that come up in this case. They just don't want to get on the wrong side of powerful Christian groups who want the cross to stay put. They may take some flak from the atheist lobby, but that they can handle.

As a resident of San Diego, I take some comfort in knowing that the Mount Soledad Cross will soon be the federal government's problem. And if the whole thing ends up back in court for another 17 years, maybe somebody can wake me up when the appeals are exhausted and let me know what happened.