Most of the goings-on of Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force are cloaked in secrecy — but one outed meeting, held a little over a year ago, sheds light on how the task force functioned. In early February 2001, Cheney met with representatives from Shell Oil and Anadarko Petroleum, who pressed the veep to stick to a Clinton-era plan to open a huge tract of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas exploration. Both Cheney and President Bush were once oil men and hence predisposed to support the proposal, but the request had to be weighed against a competing interest: that of Bush’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who opposed the plan. In the resulting compromise, the administration opened 1.5 million acres to drilling — just a quarter of the area approved by the Clinton administration, but in a part of the Gulf that contains half the available oil and gas. In December, Shell and Anadarko won the rights to develop prime sites in the region.

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