February 2, 2006
ExxonMobile: the Shame, the Ideal & the Practical
ExxonMobile is boasting the highest yearly profits ever generated by a corporation. This in a year when oil prices reached a record high due to war, infrastructure problems, natural catastrophes, depletion, and - most of all - speculation. Meanwhile, consumers are beginning to feel the pinch of higher oil and natural gas prices. As a result, the economy is not looking all that well. So, while all of us are beginning to feel the pain, a greater share of our collective wealth is being transferred to the coffers of ExxonMobile - and other oil corporations as well, no doubt.
What does a corporation do with the greatest yearly profits ever recorded? In ExxonMobile's case, they are trying to worm their way out of paying fines and cleanup costs for the Exxon Valdez spill. And they are refusing to testify before Congress on how much of their record profits were generated by their unprecedented merger into the largest corporation in the history of the planet. So much for the social and environmental responsibility of major corporations.
Yet the irresponsibility here goes much further. It is inequities such as the grotesque profits of the oil companies in contrast to the pittance they pay for their mineral rights that leads to the sort of unrest we see in the Middle East, in Africa, and in South America. The injustice and the martial abuse that results from such inequalities is the breeder of terrorism. So, in the end, it is corporate greed backed by state terror that was responsible for 9-11 and other major acts of terrorism. The profits of the oil majors are also paid for in the blood of US soldiers and Afghan and Iraqi civilians, Nigerian soldiers and rebels, and Latin American protestors and civil unrest. All totaled, ExxonMobile's profits are eclipsed ten times over by the subsidies of military expenditures and civilian losses.
Speculators drive up the prices of natural gas and oil, corporations post record profits, the US bankrupts itself paying for invasions of foreign countries while allowing its own infrastructure to rot, and the public is encouraged to go even deeper into debt to maintain their frenzied consumption. This is the US neoliberal model of how to prepare for the new era of energy depletion? It sounds more like a mad, fascist recipe for disaster.
It is time, in fact it is long overdue, that we recognize the rights of ecosystems. There should be no such thing as mineral rights. The resources of an ecosystem should be legally recognized to belong to that ecosystem. Before those resources can be used, the impact upon the ecosystem should be the primary concern. The impact on the ecosystem should be measured against the industrial importance of the resources. Where it is deemed that resources should be extracted, foremost attention should be given to remediation and improvement of the ecosystem.
Local residents should have the stewardship over resources on behalf of their ecosystem. The impact, usage and profits of resources should be discussed and decided by the community at large. Not some selected commission acting in representation of the community, but through a decision process involving the entire community, after the community has been fully informed and has debated the subject. Should the community deem that a resource is to be used, they would have the power to grant a limited charter to permit the harvesting or use of the resources. The charter could be revoked at any time, and should be reviewed and renewed by the community on an annual basis.
Preferably, these charters would be granted to democratic cooperatives, which would then perform the work of managing the resource. Prices could be determined collectively by the cooperatives and the communities, with an open analysis of the environmental costs, production costs, and demand. Prices and production could be measured by sustainability and equitability.
The first share of the profits would go to the ecosystem, to pay for remediation and improvements in environmental quality - bearing in mind that the resources belong to the ecosystem and that unless the ecosystem realizes some profit from their use there is no reason not to leave them be. The next share of the profits would go to the community, and should be used for social programs, infrastructure, and to promote sustainability. Finally, the remaining profits would go to the collective, to be disbursed equitably among the workers.
While this sketch is lacking in a multitude of details, there is nothing preventing it or something very much like it, except the power of existing corporations, fascist governments, and the lack of public awareness. Some might argue that the decision making processes involved in this model would be far to slow to handle business in the real world. However, democratic or consensus decision making processes have been shown to work in the real world. And anyway, we are talking about a sustainable society where consumption has been reduced to a sane level. We need to slow things down if we are to survive with quality.
It is clear that the neoliberal model of free markets, fascist governments and corporate greed will elicit the greatest amount of suffering possible from the dawning era of energy depletion. It is time to begin ridding ourselves of these suicidal, insane parasites.
At the very least, we need to regulate our energy markets. Otherwise the speculators will send the market off a cliff while the energy corporations hoard their profits, communities are left unprepared to make the transition, and the environment is destroyed. Prices need to be set in a fair and sane manner, not by the whims of the market. Otherwise the market will destroy itself, and take all of us along with it.
The energy corporations should be closely monitored. Their record profits should be heavily taxed to pay for environmental remediation, social programs, and to begin the process of transitioning society for sustainability. Resources should be nationalized and managed responsibly.
All of this advice flies directly in the face of neoliberal policy, and it would be met with strong resistance by corporations and the US government. But the neoliberal alternative is a mad, ignorant orgy of self-destruction.
Posted by Dale at February 2, 2006 5:51 AM Category: Peak Oil