ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Posts Tagged ‘Big Oil

The Lobby.

leave a comment »

There is often talk about “the Lobby”, and those words have a certain resonance and conjure up an unpleasant mental picture for most of us, however, I am going to argue that the real lobby in the world is hardly ever discussed, in any meaningful way.

That is the extent of its power.

Clearly, we hear bits about it, in a broad sense, yet it is rarely analysed for its component parts, wider geopolitical influence and negative effect on human rights.

It spans the globe.

Nevertheless, much of the discussion relating to it comes across in a rather crude materialistic fashion, lacking subtlety and depth

There is seldom any piercing critique of the countries involved, the powerful players, the governments, the vested interests, the paid lobbyists, the various parliamentarians on the payroll, etc and above all, the oil companies.

Yes, that is the Lobby I am talking about, the oil lobby.

Dan Froomkin at HuffPost has a good article, which touches upon some of the issues:

“With so much public opposition, why do subsidies remain? You might as well ask why there is no carbon tax, or why there was no significant reform legislation passed after the BP oil spill.

The answer is that one of the many things the industry can do with its fat pocketbook is hire a veritable army of sharp lobbyists and back them up with big wads of cash in the form of campaign donations and spending. The end result is that the industry has a remarkable ability to get its way on Capitol Hill.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ website, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $1 billion on lobbying since 1998, including a jaw-dropping $147 million just last year.

For comparison’s sake, $147 million is about equivalent to the total budget of 100 congressional offices. That’s more than the $103 million spent in 2010 by the financial service industry, another potent lobbying force — but considerably less than the $240 million spent by the pharmaceutical industry. Among major industries, Opensecrets.org ranked Big Oil fifth in terms of lobbying dollars spent, behind only Big Pharma, electric utilities, business associations and insurance.

The oil and gas industry used its $147 million to employ 788 individual lobbyists in 2010 — some 500 (or almost two thirds) of whom, according to Opensecrets.org, are former federal employees who came through the revolving door particularly well versed in the ways of government.

All told, that’s well more than one oil and gas lobbyist per member of Congress out there on the Hill arming allies with talking points and briefing books, spinning the undecided and pressuring the opposition.

And there’s more of them every year. Consider the trendlines. As recently as 2004, the oil and gas industry spent about $52 million a year in lobbying; by 2009, that figure was up to $175 million — or a 300 percent increase in just five years.

The industry backs up its extraordinary lobbying effort with lavish spending on political campaigns. Candidates associated with oil and gas companies made about $15 million in direct campaign donations during the 2010 mid-term election cycle ($26 million during the 2008 presidential cycle).

The industry was also responsible for more than $10 million in donations through its political action committees, or PACs, in the 2010 cycle. “

Written by modernityblog

07/04/2011 at 02:00

Dolphins, Whales And Kangaroos.

leave a comment »

I should probably cover more environmental matters, as way of recompense, I thought my readers might like this, someone has developed toothpaste for kangaroos:

[H/T:Jennifer Lipman]

Elsewhere the news is not so good, it seems that dolphins and whales may have suffered more from BP’s negligence than was first thought, Mother Jones has more:

“Consider, for example, one sperm whale being detected as a carcass, and a necropsy identified oiling as a contributing factor in the whale’s death. If the carcass-detection rate for sperm whales is 3.4%, then it is plausible that 29 sperm whale deaths represents the best estimate of total mortality, given no additional information. If, for example, 101 cetacean carcasses were recovered overall, and all deaths were attributed to oiling, the average-recovery rate (2%) would translate to 5,050 carcasses, given the 101 carcasses detected.”

Written by modernityblog

31/03/2011 at 20:46

Dictators in Burma.

with one comment

Burma’s dictators really don’t care what anyone thinks of them. They will imprison, shoot and kill anyone that opposes them.

As we’ve seen in the past companies are only too happy to go along with them, if there’s money in it.

The dictators in Burma feel they have a free hand to kill or brutalise anyone in the country, safe in the knowledge that as long as China supports them they can do what they like, the Irish Times reports:

“THOUSANDS OF refugees from Burma have fled into Thailand after fighting between ethnic rebels and Burmese government forces at the border following Sunday’s election.

The poll has been widely dismissed as a sham to boost the ruling military junta. Rights groups and commentators had widely predicted that the elections would increase conflict and instability in Burma, and on Sunday, rebels from the Karen ethnic group seized a police station and a post office in the border town of Myawaddy. At least 10 people were wounded on each side of the frontier in the fighting.

Thai officials said there were further skirmishes at the Three Pagodas Pass and streams of refugees headed into Thailand.

“There have been at least 10,000 refugees who have fled to Thailand,” Col Wannatip Wongwai, commander of Thailand’s Third Army Region responsible for security in the area, told the Associated Press. “As soon as the situation is under control, we will start sending the refugees back to Myawaddy.”

Burmese government troops appeared to have retaken control of Myawaddy, and the rebels of the Democratic Karen Buddhist army held just a few positions on the outskirts of the town.

Ethnic minorities account for about 40 per cent of Burma’s population and they said in the run up to the elections that they were unhappy at having the military regime impose its rule, warning that civil war could be the outcome. Absurd restrictions on eligibility made it impossible for pro-democracy groups to make themselves heard in the elections, which were the first in 20 years and came after 48 years of direct army rule.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by modernityblog

09/11/2010 at 04:51

Big Oil And Dictatorships.

with one comment

Large oil companies are often not to choosy who they do business with, be it dodgy potentates in the Middle East, to the repressive Generals in Burma, but with the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico they are, thankfully, coming under more scrutiny.

Time magazine has more:

“To the list of Big Oil companies with p.r. problems add two more: Chevron and French energy giant Total. In a report published on Monday, the NGO EarthRights International accuses the firms of being implicated in human-rights violations in Burma, claiming that soldiers guarding Chevron and Total’s natural-gas pipeline in the country have murdered locals and forced others to do backbreaking, unpaid labor in order to keep the gas exports flowing smoothly. The report also holds that the revenues from the operation have been propping up the country’s oppressive military government for more than a decade, thus fostering harmful political outcomes that affect the entire country.

EarthRights’ complaints against Total and Chevron are not new. Last year, the NGO, which is based in Washington and Chiang Mai, Thailand, published interviews with locals describing how soldiers protecting the pipeline had dragooned them into unpaid manual labor. The pipeline, which crosses more than 40 miles of Burmese territory, is a joint venture among Chevron, Total, a Thai energy company and the Burmese state oil and gas authority. Activists say it is a short section of the pipeline that travels overland through a remote part of the country that has led to ongoing conflicts between residents and the Burmese army’s Battalion 282, the soldiers charged with protecting the pipeline. Until the pipeline was built in the mid-1990s, the area saw little military action. But according to the EarthRights report, in February some soldiers of the battalion murdered two residents in the pipeline area after suspecting them of being linked to an armed militia group. “

(H/T: Andrew Murphy)

Update 1: The EarthRights International report is here, as a PDF.

Update 2: Reuters’ coverage of the BP’s oil spill is good.

Written by modernityblog

07/07/2010 at 16:21