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Friday, September 03, 2010

If Corporations are People, They're Very Stupid People

Fireboats deal with burning rig
Yesterday, we had two environmental near-disasters. In a saner world, this would serve as a reminder that we're dancing on the edge of disaster every day, with global disaster certain unless we make some changes. But this is not that saner world.

The first near-disaster was an explosion on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico -- shades of Deepwater Horizon. One day before the rig -- Marine Energy's Vermillion Block 380 -- blew, one of that company's officials complained about Barack Obama's crazy deepwater drilling moratorium. "I have been in the oil and gas industry for 40 years, and this administration is trying to break us," Barbara Dianne Hagood said. "The moratorium they imposed is going to be a financial disaster for the gulf coast, gulf coast employees and gulf coast residents."

After warning about financial disaster, Vermillion Block 380 flirted with environmental disaster -- which brings us back to financial disaster again. Maybe Hagood didn't notice, but the wreck of the Deepwater Horizon was really expensive. And it's going to stay expensive for a long time. But corporations are shortsighted -- practically by design. When your top-paid employees do almost nothing but obsess over quarterly returns, spans of five or ten or twenty years become almost foreign concepts. The corporate future lasts about three months.



Which brings us to the second environmental near-disaster. Where the first one evoked a recent memory, the second's flavor is of an earlier vintage.

Agence France-Presse:

A fuel tanker has run aground in Canada's far north, carrying 2.4 million gallons of diesel fuel that risk spilling into the Arctic waters, the Canadian Coast Guard said Thursday.

A Coast Guard spokesman told AFP no leaks from the tanker had yet been detected in the pristine waters.

The ship struck a sandbar in the famed Northwest Passage, southwest of the town of Gjoa Haven in Canada's Nunavut territory, on Wednesday. It was carrying fuel to resupply remote communities in the region.


Right now, it's just stuck on a sandbar. The company will try to float it off. Maybe they'll succeed and maybe they'll dump millions of gallons of diesel into the Arctic. Who knows? This is bad enough. But it's toward the end of the article that I found myself in awe of the stupidity.

With the acceleration of Arctic ice melt, interest in the region has soared. Shrinking ice has opened up sea navigation, and could give oil rigs improved access to the sea floor.


The sea ice is receding and the corporate world's reaction is to salivate over all the open water where oil rigs could go. In fact, any way you look at this, it's stupid. If global warming is a bunch of hooey, then that sea ice is going to come back, causing real problems with your oil platforms. Which suggests to me that oil companies know that climate change is real, but they don't care -- there's money to be made before everything goes all to hell. And, since everything's not going to go to hell sometime this quarter -- or even this year -- it's not a problem. Drill baby, drill!

It's clear that, for corporations, no wake-up call will ever be loud enough. They'll continue to pretend that nothing is happening, even as they watch everything going all to hell. As the sea ice recedes, they don't see a slow motion disaster unfolding, they see an opportunity. And they make the same old mistakes within that new window of opportunity.

It's time for us to face a truth; if corporations are people, as the Supreme Court recently ruled, then they're really, really, really stupid people. In fact, it's time to declare these people mentally handicapped. They shouldn't be allowed to work without a keeper.

-Wisco


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