Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Smoking Gun That Just Might Bring About Real Change

The words “criminally negligent” are getting tossed around a lot about Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, since the deaths of 29 coal miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. Just so far this year, Massey Energy has received 2315 violations!

However, some more very important issues need to be considered also:

Should Massey Energy be able to blame it all on their CEO, and go on with business as usual?

Should CEO Don Blankenship go to jail while his corporation's investors sneak away with all their profits?

What is to keep Massey Energy, or any company for that matter, from just hiring another Blankenship clone? Don Blankenship may be criminally negligent, but this is a systematic problem that won't go away, even if he goes to jail. If America doesn't deal with this type of failure of our political, economic, and justice systems, we will continue to be the victims of it. True justice should insure that not only people, but organizations do the right things.

Legally, corporations are considered people in America. So:

If corporations are people, they should be subject to the death penalty when they murder.

What the death penalty for a corporation means is the revocation of their charter. Shut them down. Sell off their assets. And most importantly, fire everyone at the top.

Would miners lose their jobs? Maybe. But most likely some other coal company would buy the mine and keep it going. If not, the mine wasn't profitable to run safe – and shouldn't have been open anyway.

But there's more.

Don Blankenship has pulled every string. He spent millions manipulating his state's elections. And he is the director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That's right. This man, who is practically a murderer, is the director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – fighting for Climate Change.

Watching this coal industry corporate executive call Obama, Pelosi, and Reid “crazy about Climate Change really points out who the puppet masters are, and what they are all about. Money. Money. Money. If people die, and his corporation makes money – well, that's just the cost of doing business. If our climate goes haywire and thousands (if not millions of ) people die, and his corporation still makes money – well, at least they'll profit while he's CEO.

Our political system is simply callus to the damage and death it allows for the profits of those puppet masters – who want to take everything they can get. (And I'm not just talking about corporate boards, I'm talking about investors – because they are the driving force.) ...It just stuns me that it doesn't have to be this way.

Our politicians talk about clean energy – and then talk some more. And then they keep on giving out billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and overlooking those death and destruction “externalities.”

America has what are essentially National Sacrifice Areas; where coal, oil, and nuclear power leave places literally uninhabitable. And sometimes our “laws” simply amount to regulated manslaughter. What's worse, these regulations don't have any teeth.

We know that many types of renewable power are safe. And yet we put up with three American miners dying every day of coal miner's black lung – and it's getting worse.

On top of all of that, when the World Bank was considering loaning billions to South Africa to build one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the world, the U.S. abstained from voting against it.

Our political system is broken.

Some people like it broken.

We will have to confront them to fix it.

Our sheer numbers will be the force that pressures our government to execute some criminally negligent corporation like Massey Energy.

Our sheer numbers will be the force that changes the World Bank's mind.

...Or... the sheer numbers of our deaths (that the puppet masters won't care about) will be the force that pressures us to act.


Guillermo said...

Hey Rick, I found this blog (an older post,, one form 2007) searching for a good visual on the amount of CO2 put out by a car burning a gallon of gasoline.

I'm a 4H teacher running a climate science class in Newark NJ and need to get a handle on how to get some concepts across in a tangible way...

How big is that CO2 put out by a gallon of gas? I mean how many cubic feet is 19.6 pounds of CO2?

Rick Spilsbury said... shows CO2 having a density at one atmosphere of 1.84212 kilograms per cubic meter, which converts to 0.115 pounds per cubic feet.

19.6 pounds / 0.115 pounds per cubic foot
= 170 cubic feet

The cube root of 170 is 5.5

So, 19.6 pounds of CO2 is a cube of about 5.5 feet a side.

Guillermo said...

Thanks! Just in time to include it in a PSA the kids are making.