The world’s worst environmental vandalism

For the first time in three months it seems that the Deepwater oil rig is no longer leaking crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. This episode has had all the features of a melodrama with a tragic ending. There have been cover ups, lies, incompetence, political grandstanding, recriminations and generally a simplistic view of the financial and environmental damage done and the sufferings caused with an even more simplistic misunderstanding of the responsibilities.

I am please that the oil is no longer leaking. Damage has been done to the environment, but this is not, by a long chalk, the incident which has affected the environment the most in the past decade.

Of far more devastating environmental effect was the Iraq war. Huge amounts of oil were unnecessarily burnt. Huge unnecessary emissions of carbon dioxide and pollution occurred and many dangerous chemicals were released into the environment. Compared with the pollution of the Iraq war Deepwater is just a little local difficulty.

Indeed Deepwater is not even the largest oil spill. In the Niger Delta, in faraway Africa, Shell admitted to losing 14,000 tonnes of oil into the environment through two spillages. However there were 132 spillages in the Delta last year and 175 spillages the year before, just from Shell.

Overall, the level of oil spillage constitutes the world’s worst environmental vandalism with more than 300 spillages a year, great and small.

Like the dead in Iraq, no one is really measuring the oil leaking into the Niger Delta. The quantities of oil leaking are kept secret, that way no one knows the damage being suffered for sure. CBS and ABC are not on the spot interviewing local fishermen whose livelihoods have been lost by this environmental vandalism. There is no multi billion fund to compensate the local people and no one suggests that the dividends of the oil companies exploiting Niger Delta oil, including BP, Shell and Exxon, should be frozen until they have paid for the damage caused.

But I suppose the developed world thinks that the lives of Africans are less valuable and need less protection than the lives of Americans.

3 Responses

  1. I am a Shell employee.

    I read your blog with interest. After doing so, I thought I would take a moment to a bit of information with you:

    Any spill is a serious concern. Shell Petroleum Development Company (referred to as SPDC) of Nigeria is committed to preventing spills wherever possible, to clean up and remediate all spill sites no matter what their cause and to compensate anyone affected by spills within SPDC’s control to prevent.

    Keep in mind that Ogoniland is by no means typical for Shell operations in Nigeria. As confirmed by a recent study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to establish the environmental status of Ogoni land, spills are caused there by criminal activity including illegal refineries.

    I can provide addtional information if you would like.

    • Shaun

      Thanks for your comment. I am sure that the cleaning up of oil spills is governed by the economics of cleaning them up. I would imagine that all oil companies are committed to preventing oil spills because in doing so they are trying to avoid wasting the assets in which they have invested a great deal of money to procure. The contrast I was trying to draw was between the well publicised problems in the Gulf of México with billions set aside for cleaning up and compensation and the much less publicised spills in the Niger Delta where nothing seems to be set aside for environmental damage, some of which is cleaned up and much of which isn’t. I found the concept of an illegal oil refinery rather mind boggling, because it is rather a large piece of kit to operate illegally. It is news to me that this goes on and I deplore it. It should be fairly easy for the government to control, if they want to. Perhaps there are other factors which induce them to turn a blind eye. I also know that many oil spills are caused by criminal activity in that part of the world, but if that is the culture in which you operate to extract oil, then you have to spend more on policing the installations. The cost of policing is borne by the oil consumer, whereas the cost of pollution is borne most by those that live in the region and can afford it least.


  2. Robert,

    I would like to thank for taking the time to respond to my comment. I have more information if you have interest on SPDC.

    I must say that your blog is quite thought provoking. Additionally, it is great to see someone in your capacity taking the time to share your thoughts.

    I am not sure if you are aware, but Shell has a webchat on Thursday that will focus on big ideas for the future of energy. If you have not been invited, I encourage you to join in….here are some details:

    “- Shell Dialogues Webchat –

    “Big ideas for the future of energy: aspirations and realities”

    Global energy demand is rising – and so are consumer expectations. People want energy from cleaner sources and more efficient ways of harnessing and delivering that energy. In building a better energy future we all have a part to play. So, what are the big ideas that will shape the future of energy?

    This is what we’ll be discussing in our next Shell Dialogues webchat. Called “Big ideas for the future of energy: aspirations and realities”, it will examine the thinking that has the potential to change the energy industry.

    Which energy technologies will progress most within ten years? How could changing consumption habits shape the new energy future? And what can we do to encourage people to get new energy ideas off the ground?

    To answer these and other questions, we are hosting two live webchats.

    July 22nd 2010 – 07.00GMT – London 08.00 – Brussels 09.00 – New Delhi 12:30 – Singapore 15:00 – Perth 15:00 – Sydney 17:00


    July 22nd 2010 – 15.00GMT – San Francisco 08:00 – New York 11:00 – London 16:00 – Brussels 17:00

    In order to participate, as well as to receive updates on this event and others on Shell Dialogues, please register at Registration only takes 30 seconds to complete and is open now.”

    I hope you can join.

    Shaun from Shell

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