Monday, May 10, 2010

The Oil (Quick) Sands

I think the first time that the magnitude of this oil catastrophe really hit me was when I heard that the spill spanned over an area larger than Jamaica.

The numbers are just as incredible, though. 210 000 gallons per day. Nearly five million gallons in total, so far (multiply that by four for the rough measure in litres).

The insult to this injury is that all of us who were at least partially satisfied with the consolation of a major corporation like BP, the fourth largest in the world, hemorrhaging millions of dollars in cash and loads of public embarrassment, are actually in for loads of disappointment.

A BP (British Petroleum) rep estimated their daily costs of controlling the clean-up at around $10 million per day, not including the cost of lost oil. The company, though, amidst all this chaos and ideas for funnelling out the oil, burning it, and poking and plugging new holes, announced a few days ago a net profit of over six billion dollars in the year’s first quarter. For them, this clean-up is like a few kilometres off a full tank of gas – it barely moves the meter.

If that’s not enough, we’ll also – if we intend on driving at any point in the near future – have to pay more money for gas because of their fuck-up.

BP heads like multimillionaire CEO Tony Hayward and Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg are laughing, because a sizeable chunk of their money is invested in oil. And what happens to the value of oil when it gets spilled, burnt and blown up? Svanberg and Hayward buy their spoiled, punk-ass kids a new Land Rover and their plastic wives a Tiffany’s shopping spree.

These guys don’t skip a beat, because it’s the small business owners along the Gulf Coast, the people who drive to work every day, and the natural world in general, that will ultimately suffer. The way it has been, and the way it will be for many years to come.

As consumers we’ve become oil-dependent not because we want to be, but because we have to be. Electric cars, boats and planes were invented decades ago, but were destroyed and buried, because there is too much to gain from this black gold. Four of the world’s top five wealthiest corporations are oil-based; the second being Exxon Mobile, who suffered a similar oil spill to BP’s two decades ago, in Alaska. These guys don’t skip a beat.

It isn’t America controlling this world, it’s American corporations. Barack Obama campaigned for an end to off-shore drilling, but his lack of say in the matter has surprised everyone. He’s beginning to realize how dependent America’s economy is on Shell, Exxon and Chevron. These transnational companies have caused transnational dependence, and it’s becoming impossible to control them.

Canada makes its bones in oil too, no doubt about it, but the inequity in their distribution of wealth is incomparable to ours. The divide between rich and poor in the U.S. is unreal for a developed country. Our economy suffers from the same dependence on oil that we do, and it’s the major corporations that made it that way. We can only blame ourselves to a certain extent – this wasn’t our plan, was it?

So this is less a call to action than it is an angry rant. In this system, boycotting oil is boycotting your own well-being. The Canadian dollar rises and falls with the value of oil. What we can do is ask, and hope, and pray, that our government and international governments regain control over the companies that they gave birth too. They created a monster, and what’s worse, they need that monster just as much as it needs them.

But there is one upside to this oily catastrophe. The G20 in Toronto will be the perfect venue to express your anger. The government’s fear is putting power in the hands of the people – where it should be.

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