Saturday, June 19, 2010

BP's Weapons of Mass Distraction

We're missing the point.

We have every right to be infuriated with BP (formerly British Petroleum, soon to be some other name, or names, when they inevitably “restructure”). But if our anger stops there, they have successfully distracted us.

The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is just a wake-up call. Oil spills have happened many times before and are happening all the time now. Apparently, a spill similar to the BP oil spill has been happening in Nigeria, and we didn't even know about it. Also, natural gas fracking (hydraulic fracturing) right here on U.S. soil is perpetrating disastrous environmental results. This is just what happens when you drill for fossil fuels for decades all over the world. And as far as the fossil fuel industry is concerned, it's just a part of the costs of doing business.

For close to 100 years now, the fossil fuel industry has monopolized the transportation industry. And they have NO intentions of giving up on the billions of dollars in profits they squeeze out of us, no matter what the long-term costs to society, our civilization, or even the health of the planet.

The most important point we need to recognize is that the claim that gas is cheaper than alternatives is quite simply a CON GAME! The price at the pump is a lie. That's not what we pay for gas. That's just what they have us believing we pay.

Depending upon how experts calculate it, the true cost of gasoline (what we really pay) is between 60% higher and 500% higher. The differences in the calculations are not error. They are differences in which externalized costs are considered. The low-ball estimate was calculated from straightforward costs we pay elsewhere; such as taxes the oil companies don't pay, or subsidies they receive – without actually getting the American people's approval. The high estimate, on the other hand, also includes things like lost fishing revenue, health care costs from breathing polluted air and drinking polluted water, the military costs of invading countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, the homeland security costs of dealing with increased terrorist threats, the costs of regulatory oversight and pollution cleanup, etc.

But even those estimates of the cost of a gallon of gas are likely extraordinarily low. They haven't calculated in the long-term costs of Climate Change. When we start to calculate in the cost of moving coastal cites because of sea rise, repairing weather damaged homes, farms, and businesses world-wide, dealing with melted glaciers in places like the Himalayas (and the consequential massive droughts in China), etc.; we start to talk in big percentages of world wide GDP.

We've been conned by fossil fuel monopolists into buying their product, no matter how dangerous it is.

This has been going on since prohibition, when alcohol was made illegal to possess. Think about it. Before prohibition; Model T's could run on gasoline or home made alcohol. After prohibition, they only ran on gasoline. Of course, abolitionists wanted to eliminate alcohol, but they didn't have the money to influence our nation's hard-drinking elected representatives. That's when John D. Rockefeller (of Standard Oil) stepped in with what would be the present equivalent of close to $70 million of donation money – that gave the abolitionists real power. The next thing you know, politicians are voting against their own drinking habits – and the only way left to get around in a vehicle was with gas and diesel.

The effort to monopolize the transportation industry parallels this story. The Milburn Electric car, and more recently the General Motors EV-1 are examples of electric cars that were desirable, functional, and had a consumer following. Yet, their production was shut down. Why? I would guess because the auto industry has worked hand in hand with the fossil fuel industry for quite some time now.

We could also consider the buyout of the Los Angeles public transportation system (trolleys) back in the 1940's. General Motors bought the system to dismantle it. They were convicted, and fined (get this) $1000. That's right, $1000. That's like you or me getting fined a penny.

And then, to top them all off, here we are in two “wars” (of occupation) in countries that have no interest to us at all other than oil.

We need to face the awful truth; the fossil fuel industry has essentially monopolistic control over transportation because that's what those who run it wanted. They sold out. They didn't do what's best for their customers. They didn't do what's best for our country. They didn't do what's best our environment. They didn't even do what's best for everyone's future. They maximized their short-term profits. That's what they're doing even now. (And I wouldn't be surprised to find out that in the dysfunctional system we live in that many of them feel that they have no choice.)

Just consider this; Forbes reports that ExxonMobil had a gross operating profit of $52 billion in 2009, yet they paid NO U.S. income tax. However, when it came time to make deals for conquered Iraqi oil ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and ConocoPhilips were right there at the table. They have conned patriotic Americans into fighting, dying, and paying the taxes for the military operations that ultimately only benefit their oil profits. And our corrupt American politicians keep on giving them subsidies that give them an unfair advantage over renewables. DAMN!

This is so much bigger than the oil spill. Actually, this is more about an ill conceived effort to concentrate the wealth of the world into the hands of a few – no matter what the cost – no matter the pain inflicted – no matter the numbers who die; because that's just what they do. They are required by law to maximize short-term profits for investors – who simply invest in the corporations who give them the most short-term profits.

We are paying people we don't trust to stifle innovation, get us into unnecessary wars, poison us, ruin our environment, and cripple our economy. That is why we should be infuriated.

We have created a system that ignores reality in order to make a few people filthy rich, very quick. Those people also have power. This dysfunctional system has made them rich, so they don't want to fix it. Consequently, the situation just gets worse – until a total collapse is inevitable – and everyone loses. We can likely trace the collapse of a number of previous civilizations to essentially the same causes.

It's time to maximize our systems' potential.

It's time to maximize our long-term profits.

It's time to maximize our real wealth, instead of merely our wealth indicators.

It's time to maximize our happiness.

And to truly maximize our happiness, we have to maximize everyone's happiness – even those who can't vote yet, vote here, or even vote at all.

...One more thought:

If a muslim were to put poison in your drinking water for money, he would be a terrorist, right? Then why is a corporation, that has better options but continues to take risks that will inevitably poison us, only considered a “polluter”?

America has become the victim of terrorism from the top. We need to stop them, tend to our wounded, and rebuild...And if we have learned from this, we need to rebuild even better than before.


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