Thursday, February 08, 2007

“We’ve got to get what we can now, now.”

The other day, I posted a little something on Boca Tinta about a nifty article in the February issue of National Geographic about the Big Bend National Park area. It’s not atypical, though, for the magazine to follow up an uplifting article about the environment and/or good public works programs to protect it (in this case from Mexico…not America, of course). So I should have seen what was coming when I finished the Big Bend piece…

The magazine’s next article is one of the most disturbing and depressing yet with regard to greed and the tendency of the obscenely rich to make themselves even more obscenely rich at the expense of the obscenely impoverished. It examines current conditions in Nigeria and, more specifically, the Niger River Delta region, where the same oil companies we all know and love move in like locusts to extract what they need - with no consideration for the environment or the people who live there - then move on with the same reckless and greedy agenda to the next area. The pictures speak volumes about what’s being done there and, not surprisingly, an increasingly violent movement by the locals to benefit from what, geographically speaking, is rightfully theirs. One picture of the Niger Delta looks uncomfortably like the current state of the Mississippi River Delta here in the U.S. And that’s no coincidence. You can see much of the article here…

Curse of the Black Gold - Hope and Betrayal in the Niger Delta

Among the many facts and quotations that caught my eye…a reference to a report by “an International Crisis Group” and what it calls “’a cancer of corruption.’ A Western diplomat quoted in the report was even more direct, referring to ‘the institutionalized looting of national wealth.’” As in the U.S., while the world’s mega-energy companies – Dutch Royal Shell, France’s Total, and, of course, our own Exxon/Mobil and Chevron/Texaco – have what amounts to free reign to loot whatever lands they choose regardless of any environmental concerns (and it’s an absolute orgy of land-rape in the less powerful areas of the world, as you might imagine), they usually require some level of cooperation from the governments whose lands are being pillaged; the “cooperation” coming in the form of the rich (government) officials receiving handsome financial benefits that are rarely shared with the peoples they govern. I’m hard-pressed to think of any impoverished nation anywhere in the world where the root cause of the poverty is anything other than simple, insidious greed and corruption. The folks running the oil companies are well beyond being aware of this…they count on it. They are vultures with no competing predators and a seemingly endless supply of dying lands and peoples on which to gorge themselves.

If you think this sort of thing only happens in “poor” countries, think again. The people of New Orleans know first-hand what can happen when energy companies destroy natural ecosystems in the process of doing their business; the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta region are scarred to the point of obsolescence, at least with regard to serving as a protective barrier for the populated inland areas. And while Nigeria isn’t on the receiving end of mega-hurricanes, the industries (if you can call them that) that once existed before oil and natural gas were found to be in large quantities below the surface of the land – meaning, sadly, above the surface of the folks who call the area home – have been largely eradicated. Fishing, in particular, has become impossible because the wetlands have been destroyed and the waters polluted to horrific levels.

As I alluded to earlier, the “cancer of corruption” isn’t limited to folks abroad with more limited means than those of us in America. Please note the following article that confirms what virtually all of us already knew was going on during the latter half of 2006…

Exxon Record Profits Also Shows Company Took Less Profit in Run-Up to the Election

If you recall at the time, industry “experts” were doing their best to convince us all that the suddenly lowering prices of gasoline had nothing at all to do with the November elections…that the energy companies were only giving us the pricing they could based on international price demands beyond their control. Conservatives and liberals alike…we all knew it was bullshit. We just had no proof. Now we do. Now we know that the oil companies were simply cutting their margins…and were still able to profit at what should be illegal levels. Dig this quote from the article…

(The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights) noted that, despite the temporary and limited relief of election season pump prices, the record annual profits of Exxon and Shell show once again that last summer motorists were the victims of one of the greatest rip-offs of all time when gasoline prices topped $3 per gallon. The industry has long claimed that gasoline pump prices are attributable to external factors such as the price of crude oil, but today's profit data make it clear that high gasoline prices are directly tied to oil company decisions.

"The proof in Exxon's profit report is that oil companies are robbing Americans blind and that the companies can have tremendous influence over gasoline prices at any time they want simply by taking a little less in profits," said FTCR President Jamie Court. "That's a very different portrait than the industry paints of being captive to global economic forces. Congress needs to hold hearings and ask company executives under oath about whether Exxon's sudden profit drop in the fourth quarter was based on a political motivation and subpoena company documents to determine the root of the change."

I guess the point of this post can actually be condensed into one very unpleasant statement. Which is that the mega-corporations of this world can, have and will turn any areas they so desire into Lagos, New Orleans, Kiev, the Caspian Sea region…all without the slightest concern for anything other than, “We’ve got to get what we can now, now.” That they can, have and will do so with the assistance of a system that allows for, if not encourages, the “institutionalized looting of national wealth.” Indeed, we need look no further than Washington for confirmation.

I don’t know if money is the root of all evil. But I do know greed is. And while I’m not a Christian, I also know that greed is the very concept of Satan incarnate. By my definition, we’ve elected Satan to the executive and legislative branches of our government. At what point do we decide to stop feeding the beast…?

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