American Oil Spillage & Environmental Racism; A Case Of Permanent Double Standards
Written by Paul I. Adujie
Have you heard the news? A British Petroleum Oil Drilling Rig Platform imploded and caught fire and sunk to the floor of the Gulf of Mexico last week. As a direct consequence, eleven workers missing and presumed dead, and fear of coastal pollution of coral reef and shrimps, lobsters, fish and other aquatic life in the Louisiana coast are said to be in dire straits and threatened with imminent decimation.
The news report regarding this accident, a major environmental disaster has been plentiful and the need for urgent action to stem the spread of the oil spill have been strident and vociferous and vigorous. It is only comparable to the extraordinary publicity and consequent demand for rapid response when a similar oil spillage disaster occurred on American soil through human error committed by the captain of Exxon Valdez oil spillage disaster of 1989m which spilled about eleven million barrels of petroleum crude oil near Alaska, in the United States
During the past nine days after the explosion, inferno and extraordinary environmental disaster, the BP damaged oil rig, was suspected to be spilling as much as 1,000 barrels of crude oil per day! And just when we thought this was monumental in itself, it now has tuned out, that the spill is much more astronomical! There is now and upward revision of the amount of barrels spilled per day; it is now estimated to be as more astronomically as high or higher than 5,000 barrels per day!
This monumental environmental disaster is getting worse. It is fast spreading in expanse, breadth and width and magnitude. Oil slick covering miles and miles of coastal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening aquatic life, particularly in the coastal waters of Louisiana.
President Obama has now drafted high powered American federal officials to the immediate scene and surrounding states which are threatened with immediate impact of this extraordinary environmental disaster. The United States Coast Guard has been actively involved in managing and overseeing this BP oil rig explosion, search and rescue of BP oil workers, as well as the oil spill emergencies which arose. And now, BP spending 6 million dollars a day to clean up the gulf of Mexico and there are indications that BP is increasing these daily expenditures even beyond six million dollars on a daily basis. BP has asked the United States government to commit money to the clean up and the management of the spillage and the US government has publicly rejected BP’s monetary request or aid. After all, it is public knowledge that oil companies and conglomerates have in the past several years, been awash in billions of dollars in revenues from oil explorations and prospecting, onshore and offshore, here in the United States and abroad, including Nigeria
The EXXON Valdez accident in which occurred in 1989, was blamed on the barge-ship captain, in essence, it was determined to be as a result of avoidable human error in judgment. And it will be recalled that EXXON spent billions of dollars and thousands of man-hours, cleaning up after themselves, subsequent to the accident and the environmental disaster which came about; there were miles and miles of oil slick and there were sorrowful sights of aquatic life and mammals drenched and soaked in greasy thick black crude oil. Despite these immediate efforts by EXXON, without prompting or nudging, there were nevertheless tons and tomes of litigations which arose from the EXXON Valdez accident and oil spill in Alaska.
Similarly, the BP oil rig accident and the resulting oil spillage, has met with immediate and prompt reactions. These immediate and prompt reactions were engaged in by BP on its own, and as a matter of fact, other oil companies are reportedly joining forces and resources and assets to aid BP in the clean up. It does appear that the giants of the oil industry have, as a matter of self-preservation, decided that it is their corporate self-interests, to curb and stem the unfolding oil spillage, in order to minimize, the damage to their collective image, reputation and public perception, more particularly so, as President Obama seemed to have caved to the Republicans in their demands for oil explorations and prospecting in the Gulf of Mexico, Virginia and elsewhere in the United States. The timing of the BP oil rig disaster, so close in time and proximate to President Obama acceding to the Republican Party 2008 slogan, “Drill Baby Drill” is rather a sad coincident. This is probably informed the wisdom of the oil industry, in the oil giants to quickly quietly manage the BP oil rig disaster, without a prolonged glare of the American public and press scrutinizing the spread of the BP spillage disaster. Which may as a consequence bring resistance to expanded oil drilling activities in the continental United States, and pressure to bear on President Obama to withdraw or reconsider the just announced expanded oil drilling activities in the US shelf.
Haven experienced and witnessed these two disasters and the extraordinary reactions, I feel compelled to publicly say that there is a double standards informed by the willingness of some, to devalue the humanity of continental Africans and peoples of African descent. Or what else explains the fact of the disparity in reactions and demands for solutions in tacking oil spillage say, in Nigeria, compared with similar incidents here in the United States, even when the acts of oil spillages are committed by the same multinational oil companies and conglomerates. Would BP have done these same things in Nigeria? Would BP have, without nudge, prompting and pressures, voluntarily committed and expended six million dollars a day, for ten days so far, to prevent, stem and curtail the spread of crude oil slick on Nigerian waters in the face of a similar accident, such as the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico?
The facts and the evidences supports my assertions here to the effect that there are egregiously offensive and criminal environmental degradations, and pollutions of lands, waters and airs in Nigeria and other oil producing nations in the world, and particularly so, in Africa and the less developed nations, where oil exploration and prospecting are undertaken by multinational oil conglomerates and oil corporations.
These oil multinational corporations, the richest companies in the world, are too often unconscionable in their complete disregard for the environments from which the obtain their wealth, through the drilling for the so-called black gold. These giant corporations despite their profits through oil, give very little thought to the golden the chicken which lays their golden eggs.
These oil conglomerates, through their profits, and despite such huge profits from oil from the lands in the nations which are degraded and polluted in unbridled unconscionable manner, these oil companies, have a rather very sanguine and unperturbed attitudes as regards the lands, peoples and governments in parts of the world, where these conglomerates or multinationals engage in oil drilling activities. These conscious complete and total disregard, for the lands, the peoples and governments, is informed by environmental racism.
And nothing else can possibly explain the double standards and disparity in reactions to identical accidents and incidents of oil spillage and gas flaring as practiced by oil multinational companies in Nigeria, compared with the rather dramatic war-room prompt reactions and crisis management, such as I have witnessed and undertaken by EXXON and BP in Alaska in 1989 and now, in the Gulf of Mexico respectively.
These giant oil companies and conglomerates are adept at polluting and degrading local environments without regard for the nations and the peoples who inhabit these now toxically polluted nations. In Nigeria for instance, giant multinational oil companies are disdainful and contemptuous of the lands, environment, the governments and the people. Foreign oil conglomerates routinely ignores court orders and judgments. The oil majors have been known to ignore congressional hearings and summons by the highest law making body of Nigeria, the National Assembly. The oil majors are law unto themselves and whenever these oil titans are required to comply with the laws of the land, they resort to using political pressures from their home governments in Amsterdam, London, Paris, Washington etc
Nations where rivers and seas have been polluted with frequent oil spillages. Nations where farmlands and fishing rivers and ponds are now replete with stagnant waters coated with slicks from oil spillages upon spillages for decades; with resultant stymied, stunted and stifled economic opportunities such as farming, fishing and routine of daily life and leisure.
There are documented facts and evidences of gas flaring in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, gas flaring which has gone on for 24 a day, everyday for several decades, resulting miscarriages, burning eyes, and many other health hazards which are now common in the Nigeria Delta. Nigeria is one of such nations where so much profits are derived by the oil multinationals, and yet, there remains abject poverty. And besides, these oil companies have for several decades been unwilling to voluntarily, clean up oil spillages caused by themselves. All this, despite my experience of haven now witnessed the double standards and discriminations of EXXON and BP reacting promptly and immediately to clean up after themselves, upon spillages, as was in Alaska and now, in the Gulf of Mexico
I take the view that Nigerians are human beings just like the Americans and Europeans, and therefore, entitled to live in a pollution free environment. And in this instance, what is good for Americans and Europeans in terms of pollution free environment, is certainly good for Nigerians as well!
Shell Oil or the so-called Royal Dutch Shell Company has been engaged in gas flaring for decades and decades in Nigeria. Shell Oil and other multinational oil companies which are engaged in oil exploration and prospecting in Nigeria, have been involved oil drilling environmental pollutions and degradations and have committed countless oil spillages and gas flaring in Nigeria and in the most reckless manner. These oil companies have no regard for the people and the environment in Nigeria and other less developed nations where these companies are engaged in oil drilling activities.
There should be a single and uniform standard in precautions taken to avoid oil spillages, oil exploration, prospecting and oil drilling negative environmental impacts. There should, similarly be, a single standard for crisis management methods, procedures, guidelines and rules in tackling the negative environmental impacts and adverse consequences of harvesting hydrocarbon energy and not the least of all these, is equality of resources which are allocated or earmarked for managing environmental disasters or crises, regardless of whether such disasters occurs in Nigeria, Kuwait, Venezuela, Alaska or Louisiana. All lives affected or involved should be accorded equal value and equal dignity and respect.