Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The People vs. The Powerful

Here's a flashback for you, and apologies in advance for the length of this post, but the issue is well worth it.

On March 24, 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez, loaded with over 50 million of oil and headed for Washington state, ran aground and spilled almost 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound.

This oil spill is still considered number one in terms of of damage to the environment.
The Exxon Valdez was carrying 53,094,510 gallons or 1,264,155 barrels of oil. Approximately 11 million gallons -- the equivalent of 257,000 barrels or 38,800 metric tonnes -- were spilled. The amount of spilled oil is roughly equivalent to 125 Olympic-sized swimming pools.


From Bligh Reef, the spill stretched 470 miles southwest to the village of Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula. Approximately 1,300 miles of shoreline were oiled. 200 miles were heavily or moderately oiled (obvious impact); 1,100 miles were lightly or very lightly oiled (light sheen or occasional tarballs). The spill region contains more than 9,000 miles of shoreline.
So why am I posting on something that happened over 19 years ago? Because after 19 years have passed, ExxonMobil still refuses to pay all of the court-ordered, $2.5 billion in damages (reduced from $5 billion thanks to corporate attorneys) that it owes.

This is the same company that reported the largest annual profit in U.S. history in 2006, with $39.5 billion. It followed up 2006, by besting its record of the previous year by reporting $40.61 billion in profit for 2007. And as the Washington Post noted, ExxonMobil's 2006 "revenue of $377.6 billion exceeded the gross domestic product of all but 25 countries."

So what does ExxonMobil do with all of the money it rakes in? Former CEO Lee Raymond knows, and it isn't anything that provides the customer relief at the pump. Raymond was the beneficiary of a "$69.7 million compensation package and $98 million pension payout" when he retired in 2006. But that's not all...

As David Sirota notes in his new book, The Uprising:
Unlike nearly every other big energy company on the planet, ExxonMobil officially refuses to invest any serious resources into developing alternative or renewable energy. This is a company that is so committed to making money selling oil for conversion into a greenhouse gs that it once underwrote an Epcot Center ride devoted to teaching kids about the supremacy of fossil fuels.

Warming the planet, in other words, us ExxonMobil's whole business, and one it does quite well.
ExxonMobil doesn't just disavow that climate change is real, it funds front groups who put out junk science and report it as fact to bolster the company's position.
ExxonMobil’s position on global warming has not solely been one of denial, however. ExxonMobil has been funding many of the efforts designed to cast doubt on the overwhelming evidence linking human activities and global warming. Greenpeace has identified about 40 ExxonMobil-funded organizations that either have sought to undermine mainstream scientific findings on global warming or have affiliated with a small group of climate “naysayers” who continue to do so. In 2004, ExxonMobil gave $1.9 million to 26 organizations specifically to challenge the scientific consensus on global warming; this is more than double the amount given to organizations in 2003 for grants earmarked for global warming work ($905,000).
And yet, ExxonMobil still refuses to pay for all of the damage that it cause in Prince William Sound in 1989.

Another way that ExxonMobil has used its profit, as is the case with many large socially irresponsible corporations, is that it has tied this case up in the courts for the past 19 years. Why tie the case up in litigation for 19 years? Just ask investigative journalist Greg Palast.

While cameras rolled, Exxon executives promised they’d compensate everyone. Today, before the US Supreme Court, the big oil company’s lawyers argued that they shouldn’t have to pay Paul or other fishermen the damages ordered by the courts.

They can’t pay Paul anyway. He’s dead.

That was part of Exxon’s plan. They told me that. In 1990 and 1991, I worked for the Chenega and Chugach Natives of Alaska on trying to get Exxon to pay up to save the remote villages of the Sound. Exxon’s response was, “We can hold out in court until you’re all dead.”

So on February 27, the United States Supreme Court held 90 minutes of oral arguments in the case of Exxon Shipping Company v. Baker. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself as he is an ExxonMobil shareholder.

With Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. not participating, a result of his ownership of Exxon Mobil stock, the possibility of a 4-to-4 tie was clearly present. A tie would affirm the appeals court’s judgment in favor of a class of 32,000 fishermen and business owners, who stand to receive about $75,000 apiece from the $2.5 billion award. It was abundantly clear to everyone in the crowded courtroom that if the plaintiffs could just hold on to four votes, they would win the case.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in this case between now and June 23.

At stake is whether corporations are allowed to continue to do whatever they like no matter the cost. As the Supreme Court leans right, in my mind it's likely that even without Justice Alito, the Court will rule in favor of ExxonMobil. If that's the case, it will be a complete travesty of justice.

But all of this underscores why we all need to be doing what we can to elect Barack Obama as our President. It underscores the need to get an attorney who will be the People's lawyer in the office of the Attorney General. And we need to restore funding and regulatory authority for federal consumer protection agencies.

The Founding Fathers did not establish a government of the corporations, for the corporations and by the corporations. Between the administrations of Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43, the government has been perverted into an instrument of the corporations. But, as both Governor Howard Dean and Barack Obama have shown us, we have the power. It's time for a change.


Blogger Enjneer said...

Excellent article.

I must, however, take any opportunity to make others aware that, in fact, fossil-fuel-based global warming is a hoax.

Before you discount me, I just ask for a moment of your time.

Remember how for years - decades even - ExxonMobil and the like fought tooth and nail against the idea of CO global warming. Not only that, but so did the mainstream media - where the idea was laughed at for two decades.

Politicians didn't endorse it. No-one in "the establishment" did.

Beginning roughly 3 years ago, all of a sudden, everyone endorsed it. I even saw a Bill O'Reilly show where he talked of global warming as if it's a fait-accompli.

Why would this happen? If there's one thing we have come to know, it's that the mainstream media has been and is in bed with these most powerful of corporations. So why do they all act in concert now?

Why, out of nowhere, is Al Gore the champion of global warming? The guy's money comes from oil! Even George Bush recognises "Global Climate Change."

If there were any truth to the CO global warming scenario, I tell you, Bush and Gore would be the first trying to discredit it, not bolster it!

All it takes is a little bit of open-minded investigation into global warming to quickly see that it is, at the very least, only one of many scientific theories - Not a fact at all. At the most, it is a huge swindle, designed to focus us on one red herring while these uber-powerful pirates continue to rape the environment, start illegal wars, remove our freedoms, and - especially if we believe this hoax, even get new taxes and further restrict our rights to travel freely.

The IPCC, the major UN body that released the study the supposedly changed everybody's mind about carbon global warming, is a sham of an document, with hundreds of leading, mainstream scientists that have been kicked out of the group, dissented (without their dissent being recorded), or worse, hundreds of the names on the paper are those of political aides, secretaries, anyone who had anything to with anybody at those meetings - simply to make it look like 2500 scientists all agreed to this document unanimously!

Many scientists dissent openly and many have hard data to show that we are coming out of a cooling cycle. Many are seeing data that it is the sun that is warming us, not carbon dioxide/monoxide. One scientist has even been more accurate at predicting weather than the US Meteorological Survey for three years running - simply by observing solar energy cycles!

While Gore was travelling around, looking like a saint delivering his Inconvenient Truth talks, did you know he was setting up a carbon trading bourse? And that this new stock market will allow him to extract billions in a whole new way - while effectively doing nothing to stop pollution? All a company has to do pollute more is to trade their carbon quotas. Simple.

The real problem here is, and always has been wanton pollution and abuse of the Earth and its poorer citizens! We need to stop these evil corporations from dumping their toxic melanges into out rivers, stop them from abusing humanity, stop them from controlling our governments.

So you think paying a "carbon tax" will accomplish any of this? No. It will only make you poorer and them richer.

Please take the time to watch an excellent movie made, shockingly, over a decade ago about this:
The Great Global Warming Swindle

June 7, 2008 9:46 AM  

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