Friday, April 22, 2011


Why we are unable to prevent ecological disaster.

Green is clearly in. Even the large oil companies are presenting themselves to the public as purveyors of green energy.

But it is too soon to celebrate the end of global warming.

Here is a small story that should make us understand why the US will not tackle environmental problems in the foreseeable future.

One of the highly respected engineering colleges in the Northeast has chosen the CEO of Exxon Mobil as this year's graduation speaker.

Exxon Mobil is the world's largest publicly traded oil company. It is among the companies that has suddenly become bright green. It is telling the public that it is investing in technology “to develop energy from alternative sources.”

But it is not telling the public about its continuing support of organizations that deny global warming. In 2005 they gave them $3.5 million. This support has since been reduced. But in spite of their public promises to end all donations to global warming deniers, they still continue their financial contributions to organizations that seriously inhibit efforts to face up to the climate crisis. (http://www.reuters.com/ article/2007/05/18/environment-exxon-contributions-dc-idUSN1843960820070518)

The engineering college that invited Exxon Mobil's CEO prides itself on its progressive stance on matters of climate change and alternative energy. But they refuse to reconsider their invitation in the face of vocal protests by students and faculty.

The reason? Exxon Mobil employs a lot of the college's graduates and – more importantly – has given more than $1.3 billion to the engineering school over the last so many years.

You may think that this is one more tempest in a teapot but it actually shows very clearly why we have not made any headway to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels – with the exception of planning to build nuclear power plants.

The story clearly shows the political dynamics underlying our unwillingness to take global warming as seriously as we should. The large power companies are making obscene profits. Exxon Mobil last year took in greater profits than ever before. They will fight tooth and nail to keep the profits rolling in, to keep drilling – even in deep water such as the Gulf of Mexico. They will continue to pollute the atmosphere until the large cities on the East Coast will be flooded and other major disasters hit us.

Their gigantic profits allow them to spread their money around and finance global warming deniers and to finance elected representatives that will not lift a finger to save us from the impending troubles. They spread their money around to engineering schools and the schools will show their gratitude by giving standing and prestige to the leaders of these companies.

That makes the fight for a sensible energy policy extremely difficult.

For this reason this is not just a tempest in a teapot. It is one of the places where resistance is essential. The defenders of a sensible energy policy must use every opportunity to unmask the duplicity and gross selfishness of the large energy companies and the politicians, foundations, yes and college presidents they have bought.