Going green – Do people care?

Do people care?

[Abdalla El-Badri, secretary-general of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)] “Opec yesterday warned western countries that their efforts to develop biofuels as an alternative energy source to combat climate change risked driving the price of oil through the roof”
Financial Times, Wednesday June 6, 2007

The nations oil refiners were in Capitol Hill last week trying to talk lawmakers out of mandating a huge increase in the use of ethanol and other “renewable” fuels. Their complaint: Its unreasonable for the government to ask the industry to increase the gasoline supply while at the same time requiring Americans to reduce gasoline consumption in favor of alternative fuels. In reaction to earlier industry complaints, Congress streamlined the environmental approval process for new refineries. Two years later, not a single new refinery has been proposed.
The Washington Post, June 17, 2007

While I appreciate the secretary-general of OPEC telling us their future strategy I shrug and say, so what. I feel as though he is warning us, almost threatening us to continue to use his product, as though we have an alternative. If Congress were to scale back the biofuels requirement, what commitment would OPEC and the oil industry make to increase supply, capacity and output? And if OPEC and the oil industry wont make such a commitment, isnt it reasonable for Americans to want to invest in alternative suppliers?

The arrogance of OPEC and the oil companies makes me want to work harder to get off the dependence of foreign oil, to kick the proverbial middle-eastern sand in their face and say you and the camel you rode in on, buddy.

There were Americans scoffing at Bill Gates, then CEO, Microsoft, for helping the citizens of India and Pakistan. “They” said that Gates was only helping those countries because that is where he got most of his writers and engineers. Isnt that good corporate citzenship? Instead they called Microsoft “the empire”. Gates has since gone on to build an empire of philanthropy and retired from Microsoft.

People do care when their children and animals start dying. When China started importing tainted dog food and bad baby food Americans feared for their loved ones lives. But do they know or care that the same problems are happening in China, the country the products orginated from?

The Gross National Product (GNP) of OPEC countries are going down, while non-oil countries that create other revenue streams are watching their GNP go up. I can understand why certain countries are afraid of us getting off the dependence of foreign oil. How do oil companies and the countries involved justify not spending money to clean the waterways and the air? Over a hundred years later and all some OPEC countries have to show for themselves are statues of their leaders and gold sinks in their castles while their people are poor and uneducated.

For years oil companies have flared gasoline as it came out of the earth. Now we are seeing the effects of those flarings and the leakages from the pipelines into the waterways on the natives in those countries.

According to the BBC, there is a lawsuit that alleges that Shell took land without paying proper compensation, polluted the atmosphere and paid for local police to suppress opposition.

According to the Financial Times, “A subsidiary of Halliburton is under investigation by the UKs Serious Fraud Office over the US oil service companys part in an alleged plot to pay more than $170m (£89m) of bribes to win billions of dollars of work at a giant Nigerian gas plant.”

According to Vanity Fair, Chevron is being sued to answer for conditions in 1,700 square miles of rain forest said by environmentalists to be one of the worlds most contaminated industrial sites. The pollution consists of huge quantities of crude oil and associated wastes, mixed in with the toxic compounds used for drilling operations. Chevron acquired the lawsuit when they purchased Texaco, nearly doubling Chevrons size of operations.

MSNBC and the Financial Times reported that BP has agreed to withhold some of Lord Brownes retirement money till the Alaskan Pipeline debacle is settled.

Why was Gates scoffed at for helping clean up medical problems in the countries he imports most of his immigrant employees from and yet Americans turn a blind eye to the atrocities the oil companies pile onto the oil-rich cash-poor countries? Why is it that the biggest outcry from Americans come when the price of gasoline goes above $3.00 a barrel? Brazil has always been known as “the country of the future and it always will be”. Brazil is off the dependence of foreign oil, they have paid off their International Monetary Fund (IMF) debt early. They are investing more money into their own future and irritating Venezuelas Chavez every day they succeed.

Its a great marketing ploy to put billions into advertising and have a green and yellow flower that symbolizes going green and being kind to the environment, but the same company didnt listen to their employees when there were problems and theyve ended up with thousands of barrels of spilt oil on the frontier of Alaska and fifteen people dead in a refinery in Houston. Not only did BP not act in a timely fashion, but Americans didnt notice till the price of gasoline went up because of these problems.

Most people dont know that BP leads the U.S. refining industry in deaths over the last decade, with 22 fatalities since 1995 ” more than a quarter of those killed in refineries nationwide, a Houston Chronicle analysis shows.

Ive asked a group of friends and they say that they do care, but that they barely have time to care about their own life. They have children, they have jobs, they live monthly, paycheck to paycheck. They wouldnt care so much about the price of gasoline and would care more about what it is doing to the environment, but that might mean the price going up and they are barely making ends meet as we speak.

My friend, Sheri, says shes going to look at everything she buys now and if it comes from China shes not going to buy it. Shes heard of the anti-freeze in the tainted toothpaste and doesnt trust anything from China. When I point out that most of the laws we have today are because corporations have created products that killed people she ponders that statement. When I point out that the cheap gasoline she buys is produced by corporations that are in lawsuit’s in the country they originated from she winces.

Chevron used to have a marketing campaign that touted how wonderful they were for taking into consideration the wildlife wherever they put another platform to bring oil out of the earth or the sea. It always finished with, “Do people care?, Yes, they do”. When you are asked if you are an environmentalist, stop and think before you answer the question with a resounding yes.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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