Makers, Takers, & Why Supercharged U.S. Oil Production is a Lose Lose for America

by Travis Nichols

November 13, 2012

Local population are cleaning up the area of the Sote-pipeline accident near the city of Papallacta in the Andes. The oil has run into the river there and has also polluted a freshwater reservoir. They are putting oil barriers into the reservoir.

© Clive Shirley / Greenpeace

[caption id="attachment_12889" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Local population cleaning up the area of the Sote-pipeline accident near the city of Papallacta in the Andes."][/caption] U.S. Redraws World Oil Map. Thats the front page of the Wall Street Journal today, trumpeting the International Energy Agencys prediction that the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the worlds largest producer by 2020 because of the resurgence in oil and gas production in the United States. The response around the world to this bombshell has been a unanimous, Holy shit. With one report, the International Energy Agency has turned the world on its ear. Why? Because for decades, the U.S. has been the superpower whose major weakness has been its dependence on foreign oil. An empire enslaved. But now, it seems, we have the potential to shake free of this dependence in less than a decade, and in a way, that, according to the WSJ, both Obama and Republicans agree will create jobs and boost the economy. Huzzah, hooray, high five, w00t, woohoo, :) yay America!!!! Right? Well, in addition to the fact that global warming from consumption of this potential production might could kill off our coastal communities and unleash hella-dengue fever, the whole jobs thing is, in fact, bullshit Big Oil propaganda. "Economic growth" is the lead line in Big Oil's epic bait and switch that leads straight to environmental disaster and one gigantic: :( Big Oil has spent a century getting rich in developing countries by running this game. They promise jobs and economic boosts in exchange for access to resources, but in almost every instance its meant jobs for the 1 percent only, and environmental devastation for everyone else. America wont be the exception. And, after everything, gas prices will stay the same. Buzzkill. Heres how the bait and switch works: Big Oil comes to a country in distress, one that is often already in hock to various industrialized economies, and makes an offer the distressed country cant refuse: We have money. You have debt. We want oil. You have oil. Give us access, and well give you development. Promise. Take Ecuador. In late 60s, Big Oil promised roads and electricity to help bring Ecuador out of poverty in exchange for access to the vast oil reserves just then discovered in the Amazon. Big Oil quickly got what it wanted out of the bargain (oil, cash, politicos), but Ecuador? Not so much. Since selling off access to the Amazon, Ecuadors official poverty level has grown from 50 to 70 percent, the public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion, and--crucially--more than a half million barrels of oil have spilled from the trans-Andean pipeline into the countrys wilderness. As Chris Jochnick noted in the New Internationalist: When oil was discovered in the Ecuadorian Amazon 30 years ago, it was heralded as the country's salvation. The first barrels were paraded through the streets and placed on public altars. Oil was used to treat arthritis and hair loss and national TV news programmes ended with gushing oil towers and the ringing phrase: 'Ecuador: Pais Petrolero!' (Ecuador: Oil Nation!) But 3 billion barrels and $32 billion later, the country is no better off for its boom. Crippled by debt, wracked by inequality and political corruption, Ecuador is more oil dependent than ever. And the oil companies just keep drilling and pumping. Promise jobs, deliver environmental destruction. Thats the Big Oil game, and it plays out everywhere Big Oil goes. Just ask the Gulf. [caption id="attachment_12890" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Fire and smoke rise from a controlled burn of oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico near BP's Deepwater Horizon spill source."][/caption] Of course, the U.S. has long been demonized for setting up the Big Oil game, so it is joylessly ironic to now see the U.S. being hoisted by its own petard now that we have become a country in distress, not so unlike Ecuador (dont tell Toby Keith!). So, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon, Statoil, Conoco Phillips, Chevron, and the rest of Big Oil have now made us an offer. If we give them access to our natural gas in North Dakota, our shale deposits in Colorado, our oil in the Arctic, and the rest anywhere else they sniff it out, they will create jobs and boost the economy. It's a terrible deal, one that has no percentage in it for America or the world. We have a chance to develop an economy based on alternative energy with the technology we have now, and high fives over news like this only lock us further into the dead dinosaur planetary spiral of doom. There's plenty to discuss about energy production here in the U.S., but whatever the discussion, don't let it start with the Big Oil Bait & Switch. take action

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Standard text messaging rates will apply. Greenpeace US may contact you by email or phone with campaign updates and other offers of engagement. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.