by Stephen Capra
It’s been a remarkable week in conservation. We witnessed first the smack down of the Keystone pipeline, something I famously thought this President would never do. But more broadly we are beginning to see the weakening of Big Oil as we know it and that is something worth celebrating.
If you have scanned the press lately one of the major headlines revolves around the fact that Exxon-Mobil has known for decades the dangers and impacts of Climate Change and rather that support efforts to combat it, actually spent millions fighting its existence at all, meanwhile internally creating models and preparing to drill in the arctic as ice receded. Now, the New York Attorney General and perhaps many Attorneys General may seek to get in on the fight with this oil giant in a class action suit similar to that which we have seen with tobacco. Actions like this against a major oil company would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but the cracks in their mega-power are beginning to show.
In the coming months we should be witness to the complete insolvency of many oil companies that borrowed big in the shale boom and now cannot pay their loans back with oil settling in at $45 a barrel. Not just a company or two, but an avalanche of companies that will go belly up and suddenly the industry of arrogance not just to people and communities, but to the environment, are looking quite mortal.
Sadly, one person continues to sing their praises and is giving them some sympathetic press. That man is billionaire Bill Gates, who rather than divest, continues to invest in big oil and his real and now he is being quoted by companies like Exxon in their efforts to show their importance as a growing chorus of people, elected officials and investments firms are calling for a serious push to a green energy future.
Shame on Mr. Gates and perhaps his good friend Warren Buffet, who is said to own much of the infrastructure that the oil industry is dependent on for transporting their filthy product.
Having fought big oil for close to a generation, my sense is this is the first of many spiraling fights as the industry loses its foothold and political power. Yet, we remain one Republican president away from reviving this patient from the dead. The Republican Party is married at the hip to big oil and will do whatever is necessary to prop them up.
So big oil is beginning to become just oil and soon we hope they will be reduced enough to divest themselves. But it will take many more people demanding far more from our elected officials and it will likely require more punishing lawsuits and punitive actions to break this monopoly that has held not just our country but our planet hostage for far too long.
The beauty in all of this is to reflect on what occurred just a few short months ago in Seattle. There, a group of determined kayakers stood their ground in the Seattle harbor, saying no to Shell oil and their efforts to drill in the arctic. Kayakers, people, average people with hearts far larger than their wallets, saying we have had enough of this. The headlines and publicity were enough to shame even an oil giant who would go north anyway and come back empty-handed after investing more than 7 billion dollars. That failure would spur the Obama Administration to close off large sections of the arctic to future drilling, something big oil and their congressional cheerleaders could not have foreseen.
Big oil, like many industries before it has enjoyed the swagger that comes from being king, like many kings it also has lots of blood on its hands, the blood of a planet, of its people and its spectacular wildlife. The day cannot come soon enough to see their power finally slip away forever. Green energy is our future, the goal now is to make green energy our present!
Bold Visions Conservation