As the world gets bombarded with news of tens of thousands of barrels of oil that continue to pollute the Gulf of Mexico, I am reminded about other oil disasters that have occurred in the past.
The British Petroleum (BP) which used to be called Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1950's dominates the headlines. This company had exclusive rights to extract, refine, ship, and even sell Iranian oil. This oil company was owned by the British government. The oil that fueled United Kingdom came from Iran, even its Royal Navy that blackmailed the world came from Iran.
Who cared when Union Carbide killed 25,000 Indians (in Bhopal in 1984)? Were billion of dollars or pounds set aside to help them out? As bad as the Gulf of Mexico is, there have been even worse oil spills, such as the Nowruz oil field (1983) and the Oil spill of 1991 by Iraqi forces in the Persian Gulf.
The incompetent governments of the Persian Gulf region appear reluctant to force oil companies to clean up oil spills and to compensate the people for the oil poisoning of our waters and homelands. Natural gases flaring in our Persian Gulf region are more than any natural gases burned/used in the entire world. These gases pollute our region and cause poisonous elements that damage our environment, especially during times of rain. The catastrophic consequences of oil are also happening in Brazil, Ecuador, and other South American countries where the US gets more than 250,000 barrels of oil per day.
Growing up in the Khuzestan region of Iran, I witnessed how our wetlands and rivers were polluted to accommodate oil companies depleting our resources. Aging oil wells and oil platforms and oil pipelines leaked millions of gallons of oil into our lands every year. Much of this oil infrastructure has been under illegal Western sanctions and abandoned by various oil companies, left to corrode, crack, and leak in our rivers and eventually polluting the Persian Gulf which ultimately being discharged into the ocean.
The entire world is affected by oil and gas disasters. Much of the marine life breeds, feeds, and lives in the world's oceans. If a disaster happens in a third world country or a country run by dictators, often is not the subject of world-wide media attention (case of India) or a small amount of money will be set aside without regard to population and its environment.
Wealthy countries and people who benefit financially and economically from the oil industry are never heard to complain; it is only when disaster strikes them that they become vocal and outraged. It is ironic how people are surprised by the insensitivity and arrogance of BP executives. The third world countries have had to deal with them for over a century. These oil executives see the world coldly only in terms of profits to be made and losses to be avoided; nothing else is of importance to them.
BP is known to have caused extensive damage to Persian Gulf coastal communities without regard to human lives and safety. Don't be surprised if BP files for bankruptcy and changes its name so that it can continue its reckless practices under the new name. Or BP might follow Halliburton's example and move its corporate offices to a location where legal restrictions will not apply.
Why has the USA government taken $20 billion from BP to help a few thousand along the coast line when it did not take any money from AIG, Bank of America, or other financial institutions for the damage they have caused millions of people all over the world? Corporate greed has caused extensive damage throughout the world.
Why is the media suddenly upset about BP? Will some States such as Arizona pass a law to exclude oil companies operating in that State? It seems oil companies are causing more damage than illegal immigrants!
Cars and trucks that get 8-10 mpg must be taken out of the roads. The primary problem is the people in Western countries that demand high standards of living, for example, amount of electricity used in a Western household can be enough to lit a village in a third world country whose environment is being poisoned by oil companies. Monster trucks and Hummer(s) must be banned from roads and automakers must not be permitted to collude with tire companies to undermine the availability of mass transit, for example.
Oil companies have spent billions of dollars to keep people distracted through television, video games, sports, and other trappings of modern living. I recognize that good devices and products are created using oil, but also there is a dark side to all of commercials and people who work in advertising. I wish that more information was available, rather than having to wait for many years when most people are dead for documents to become de-classified.
Oil companies have committed crimes against humanity by filing false statements to obtain licenses to drill, using outdated techniques to drill deep where human divers cannot go, and/or bribed corrupt officials to get away with poisoning the environment. Yes, BP will pay huge fines for these atrocities but that will not prevent it from continuing its destructive practices; in fact, it might behave even more irresponsibly in order to offset its current losses.
Dangerous drilling for oil is an international problem that all countries must confront. The West must recognize that all people, not just its citizens, are vulnerable to the damage and destruction caused by drilling We all share an obligation to protect our fragile environment; if not, we will all suffer the loss of our home, the earth. Western countries must stop acting as if their population is better than citizens of other countries. Each human being is a member of the global race and is affected by the disasters that happen in other parts of the world.
Mohammad Ala is a community activist and an expert in Production and Operations management. Dr.Ala is founder and a Board member of four NGOs and a professor of Operations Management. Professor Ala has taught and/or consulted at universities throughout the world.