Welcome to part 5 of the series on Renewable Energy.
This next installment could easily be a stand alone story, but I wanted to keep it in the context of the entire problem. (especially in light of the Supreme Court's ruling reducing the penalty to Exxon for the Valdez oil spill - an average of $15,000 per plaintiff, some of who lost a year or more in wages)
This segment is about the human cost in blood and lives. I hope that your anger about what has been done in this world in our name, for the consumption of oil, will stir you to the necessity to GET OFF OIL NOW through an immediate change in U.S. consumption and policy.
Here is my interview with Doug Vilsack, son former Presidential candidate, Tom Vilsack and Iowa Governor. Doug is someone I met while stumping for John Edwards, and he was stumping for Hillary. After we met, I told him about the show I host and he mentioned this story, which although I had heard about it, could not believe the depth and scope of the despiteful tactics of big oil and the complicity of our Media, most notably, CNN.
My guest today is Doug Vilsack, and he is here to tell us about a situation in Ecuador. What happened there and who did you meet?
Doug Vilsack -
I went to Ecuador where I met an amazing person, Pablo Fajardo. He grew up in Ecuador, and with much adversity, got his High School diploma, a rare thing there. Later he got a computer degree, then a law degree. In 2000, he got started working on his first case, the Chevron/Texaco case. This case had been tied up in the U.S. courts for years, and got transferred to Ecuador. So he was working on the case, and the lead lawyer quit. So basically a year out of law school he became the lead attorney taking on Chevron, which is a big case - the damage estimate is said to be 6 billion.
This will be the biggest environmental case in the world, the first time that a big oil company will be held responsible for evironmental damages.
Question - Doug, what happened with the news coverage of this case, particularly CNN?
A - So Pablo Fajardo is the lawyer and he got a CNN 'heroes' award this year, a humanitarian award. He was one of 7,000 nominated and won the award in the fighting for justice category, a process which included being voted on by a blue ribbon panel with folks like Lance Armstrong. He got to go to New York and accept the award and he got his story published on the website.
Q - On CNN's Website?
A - Yes on CNN's website, it got published on there for a few days then a few days later it disappeared.
Turns out that Chevron had just kicked off this big ad campaign worth millions to try to sell Chevron as an environmentally friendly and supportive of sustainable energy, and it turned out, Chevron talked to CNN and got them to pull the story from the website.
Question - So it is not like they bowed to the advertising about any story, but a story they made, for an award that they gave out !?!
A - Yes, then Chevron put out press releases in Ecuador saying Pablo had somehow defrauded and tricked CNN into giving him the award. You know Lance Armstrong voted for him for this award - how would this guy in the Amazon Rainforest somehow trick Lance Armstrong?
Question - So first they scrub the story up here, then do a PR campaign in Ecuador and, if you are living in a country with not as many good educational resources, and you've got some corporation spending millions of dollars or more defrauding this person...it is so unfair.
A - Yes, there is a big difference in the resources Chevron has and the resources these people have, it is a David and Goliath Story.
It almost works to their advantage, because Chevron is there in California with a team of lawyers, and they can't believe that this guy 1 year out of law school could beat them, so they underestimated him at every step.
Its racism really, when you are looking at this guy who doesn't have the education and hasn't grown up with all the things these Harvard lawyers have had.
They think they can beat him, and they are not, and that shows that the human spirit can triumph over those folks who think they can bully you around.
One of the most important things to do is to think of these folks in Ecuador as your neighbor.
You meet these people and they are like anyone else, they are struggling, they are trying to get by, and they are trying to make ends meet. They are just like anyone else in the world, trying to farm and survive and they are being harmed by the stuff we put in our cars, so we need to think about that.
There is a great article in Vanity Fair - google it, it is called Jungle Law.
And you can go to the website
Some statistics that Doug and I discussed related to the condition of the land and water where these people live in Ecuador:
The toxity rates for Benzene, a by product of sloppy oil drilling, is over 1000 times the EPA level in the states.
*Chevron covered open oil pits with dirt as their 'clean up', resulting in the spoiling of the groundwater and land in general.
*Childhood leukemia is at 3 times the national average in these homes.
*In many homes, one or more of the family members is dying from rare forms of cancer from toxicity exposure from the oil extraction and by products.
*Families that rely on cattle or livestock, as most do, have had many animals lose weight and die, and the females abort their offspring, leaving no new animals for food or income.
All this is going on while Chevron is promoting their 'Human Energy' of their new PR campaign. Not only that, Chevron had this to say in the court hearing in Ecuador:
(from Vanity Fair, by William Langewiesche)Chevron ... denies that the judge is fair, denies that the plaintiffs have legitimate complaints, denies that their soil and water samples are meaningful, denies that the methods the company used to extract oil in the past were substandard, denies that it contaminated the forest, denies that the forest is contaminated, denies that there is a link between the drinking water and high rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, and skin disease, denies that unusual health problems have been demonstrated—and, for added measure, denies that it bears responsibility for any environmental damage that might after all be found to exist.
Over the 17 years that Texaco operated this conduit to the sea, until Petroecuador assumed control, in 1989, the pipeline suffered 27 major breaks and spilled nearly 17 million gallons of oil, much of which was not cleaned up. The volume of the spills has been widely reported. For comparison, the grounding of the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons....
But here is their PR campaign on how much they care.
(Is that the voice of actor Scott Campbell from 'Singles' - the character that wanted a light rail in Seattle?)
This ad is so slick, I almost believe them. Until I remember that they have attacked Pablo in his own country through an full on attack ad campaign, accusing him of defrauding CNN to win a humanitarian award.
Not only that, but the methods that polluted Ecuador is now being exported to other countries.
These other countries who are being polluted include Angola and other companies like Shell, polluting the Niger Delta.
http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Africa/Bush_BlackGold_WAfrica.html credit to Chris Fagan
The Delta region, home to Nigeria's oil industry, is poor and polluted. The antiquated oil pipeline system is subject to regular spills and gas fires. The people are subject to routine savage repression by police and soldiers. In the 1990s, the government executed Ken Saro-Wiwa, a leader of the Ogoni people, along with seven others. Saro-Wiwa's brother revealed that Shell Oil, which controls 50 percent of oil operations in the Niger Delta, offered to halt the executions if Ken Saro-Wiwa agreed to call off the Ogoni people's demonstrations against Shell. The accounts are legion of oil companies, principally Shell and Chevron, hiring mercenaries or soldiers to kill political opponents or local activists.
Not only that, but these oil companies are located in the places that are also the home to some of the worst dictators, that the U.S. and Bushco has supported, not to mention that we are in Iraq for mainly oil revenues.
I don't know if Barack Obama will do as much as I want on this subject, but he is our best chance. We must start demanding an all electric car sector. We know we have had the technology since they killed the electric car. We know that there is more than enough wind and solar power to supply our entire country with both electricity for businesses and homes, AND quote : we could put our entire auto fleet on wind generated electricity through these plug in hybrids.
We can't simply think of the impact of oil in terms of only hurting the environment, because we have naively trusted that the oil companies would not literally kill people in other countries through their oil drilling practices.
I am tired of trusting big oil. I don't trust them, nor the
Bush agenda and not even those who are looking for timid middling steps to change the way we address energy. We were lied to, yet we are still guilty of complicity in the damage that has been done and will keep being done until we end our dependence on all oil.
In Oil We Trusted and in Oil we have killed. I say no more.
We must stop this. Visit the website on Ecuador here