Oil plays a major role in the development of economies all over the world. This is the one source of energy that has been relied on by industries for a long time, and the products of which are used almost in every sector of the economy. Slight problems in the oil industry cause a huge impact on the dynamics of the entire economy. As we shall see, institutional corruption and other mismanagement problems have led to ruining the natural environment. Oil companies seem not to take enough responsibility for damages they cause to the environment. On the contrary, these multibillion corporations have been characterized by the world worst scandals involving billions of money and acts of violence against humanity (Sullivan, 2003).
This paper discusses all these evils and their impact on people and the environment. It is seen that what should be a blessing has actually turned out to be a curse causing wars and massive destruction of the environment in most countries, and oil companies have a greater stake in all that. One of the most affected countries by a criminal and unethical behavior of oil corporations is Nigeria. The industry in Nigeria is famous for its vicious cycle of violence, which is blamed on multinational oil companies, the government and a rebellious group of the local armed youth living mostly in the country’s Niger Delta region. All this has been caused by the struggle to control oil wealth in the country with stakeholders perceiving pipeline explosions among other green crimes as collateral damage. This has made oil exploration a nightmare for citizens of Nigeria and other countries with similar problems.
Oil pricing is also a very critical issue in the global economy. These companies have fueled world inflation in uncountable instances in an attempt to maximize profits at the expense of people, as it has been noted Bannon, I. & Collier, P. (2003). A slight increment in oil prices is felt not only in the transport sector, but also in the entire economy. This is caused by the manner, in which oil products are universally used in the economy. However, these companies have in numerous instances caused artificial shortages aimed at forcing prices up to increase their margins, and such criminal acts remain covered with the help of extensive illegal lobbying. This essay will unveil such unethical issues pointing out perpetrators and how they harmed their victims and suggest policy changes that should be enforced to curb the problem.
The case of Nigeria
The Niger Delta region is known for its oil-rich spots. However, it is inhabited by about twenty million people. The region is also a very rich ecosystem with the widest range of different plants and animals as a result of a good climate. However, this place experiences frequent oil spills, which have destroyed vegetation and agricultural plantations not to mention poisoning the surrounding water bodies. According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s research in the country, the estimated 2,300 cubic meters of oil spill every year in about three hundred separate incidences. The region has numerous pipeline networks, as well as networks of flow lines, which run above the ground. This kind of infrastructure has a small estimated lifespan of about fifteen years before pipes become highly susceptible to corrosion. However, oil and pipeline companies seem to have neglected them instead of replacing them, while they are quite aware of the risks they pose to the environment and people. Most of them were constructed between 1960s and 1980s, which means that they more than double the age, of which they are supposed to be. What makes the matter worse is that these companies do not even care about performing frequent maintenance to reduce the risk of explosions. For instance, the Bonny Terminal operated by the Shell Corporation has been in use for 40 years without maintenance. The project though is estimated to serve for twenty five years (Bannon and Collier, 2003).
This kind of carelessness has cost people living around the area so much, and the government is generally doing nothing about it. The population of the region is often struck by diseases because of the consumption of polluted water. To pierce the wound, petroleum chemicals are also known to be very carcinogenic. Drilling companies also burn extra gas that escapes during oil drilling. This fire has been constantly burning for over thirty years every day and night. This raises the question of climate changes and the effect of acid rains. Medical consequences of these gases include blood-related disorders, asthma and coughing, difficult and painful breathing, lung infections, conic bronchitis, cancer, just to mention a few. The problem is that there are measures that can be taken to ensure safer exploitation of oil, but these companies turn a blind eye to suffering they impose on the indigenous people. Instead of protecting its citizens, the government has brutally crashed those, who raise their voices to claim their basic human rights. These people have been mercilessly abused by both the government and subsidiaries of such large multination oil corporations as Shell, the main operator in the region, Exxon-Mobil, Agip, Total, which has been previously referred to as Elf and Texaco (League for the Revolutionary Party, 2010).
Capitalistic Crimes and Ethical Questions
The human rights violated all over the world by multinational oil corporations include the right to adequate standards of living and food, the right to clean and safe water, the right to health and the right to make a living through work and others, according Sullivan, R. (2003). As if this violation is not enough, these corporations get also engaged in capitalistic crimes and unethical behaviors responsible for most economic malfunctions with selfish intentions of accumulating wealth for themselves. The government has helped these corporations expand their operations in order to avail gas to people with a perceived intention of increasing its supply. However, this is not what happens at all. These companies benefit from acquiring larger reserves of gas and supplying what is enough to keep prices where they are or even raise them. People have a hard time filling their gas tanks, not to talk of high prices of basics commodities all caused by the increased cost of petroleum products. These prices hit consumers so hard and governments prove to be toothless watchdogs. Stronger policies should be enacted to control the artificial manipulation of oil prices. Governments should get more closely involved in the running of these companies because of the size of impact they have on the economy.
It is very honorable of the President Obama’s move to reduce oil price manipulations,, but to our surprise his plan has been attacked by these companies and their people in the government, blaming the President for not endorsing expensive pipelines and more drilling, which will only accumulate wealth for corporations. These companies are so profit-oriented that they will fight any move that can affect their profits, however, it is beneficial for the public. For instance, they fight against the move to increase the efficiency of fossil fuel using machines as well as any legislation aimed at protecting the public from price gouging (Bannon and Collier, 2003).
These corporations have so much influence on the government that although many people cry, legislations will never deliver them. They use their unlimited wealth and power to support politicians, who promote their endeavors by donating huge sums of money to their campaigns. These donations are covered in such a way that corporations will be directly attached to politicians, but the truth is that they use their seats to protect corporations behind the curtain. It is amazing how these corporations get back at unsupportive sitting presidents by slowing down the process of production to push up prices to make them look bad in the eyes of their people. This kind of selfishness is more of crime than just unethical, and the worst part is that almost nothing can be done. Corporations appear to be in total control of every government’s move by the use of their excessive and illegal lobbying.
This leaves the public with minimal options, and drastic measures should be taken to improve the situation, in which the world’s economy is. The only sure way of controlling organization’s activities is through its ownership. This makes it recommendable that governments should ensure that they own a stake in corporations. Environmental organizations should be also given a chance to control these companies for their high polluting effect. This will bring a balance in the objectives of these companies, and people’s voices will always be raised in the decision-making process. The welfare of communities and economies will no longer be ignored, and the world will certainly become a better place to live in. However, it should be noted that such measures will always be strongly objected, and the fight to ensure that these capitalistic crimes are dealt with should only get tougher (Bannon and Collier, 2003).
Oil corporations are engaged in such criminal activities as corruption and poor treatment of workers, as well as the communities living around drilling sites. Almost all of them have reported to treat workers as expendable commodities. For instance, BP’s negligence of safety measures caused the loss of fifteen workers in a refinery explosion. This tragic incidence did not even move the management, and it came as a shocker to read an internal memo claiming that the organization had to be resolute to save money by not building the proposed blast-resistant trailers for its employees. The claim that the investment was not cost-efficient showed this organization treated its employees as little rats, whose eminent danger is not worth spending. It is worthwhile noting that the situation is far much worse in poor countries with the super-exploitation of labor because of the problem of mass unemployment. In these countries, workers are not only treated poorly, but also extremely underpaid with oil companies shamelessly leading in this behavior. These countries have even reported numerous assaults of workers by their superiors with sexual harassment amounting fifty percent of cases. Ladies are forced to sleep with their bosses to keep their jobs or to get a promotion. This kind of animal behavior goes unpunished, which just encourages it.
The Gulf of Mexico is one of the worst regions hit by companies’ negligence and avoidable accidents. There is the evidence of massive oil spills by the BP Corporation. The environmental destruction and the devastation of workers and people living in the region can be estimated by the League for the Revolutionary Party, (2010). Continued leakages worsen the situation, and the company together with the government cannot appreciate the intensity of the situation, instead they just try to cover it up. It annoys to hear blank reassurances, while real measures cannot be taken to stop further environmental degradation, as well as to remedy victims of their losses. This corporation will just keep on making billions of profit at the expense of people and the environment they live in. The government should first sign agreements that will protect its people and organizations that do not have a history of harming them. Then, agreements should be closely monitored, and their breach should be severely punished. However, this does not happen. We have recently witnessed that the government of the United States permit an extremely hazardous drilling about one mile deep into the floor of the ocean. Then what hurts most is that this company keeps on lobbying the government to ensure that it is not forced to keep contingency plans in case of such accidents. This unceasing pursuit of profits without much consideration of the effects to the environment and its inhabitants rewarded BP a profit of 5.6 billion dollars in the initial quarter of 2010. This company scoops a staggering twenty billion dollar profit every year, and the percentage spent on social responsible activities is just ridiculous, not to think of being unable to build for its workers a blast resistant trailer. The government should just wake up and force these companies to take these safety measures and contingency plans using any possible kinds of threats. The safety and well-being of people should not be compromised for the benefit of a particular corporation.
Oil corporations are the largest multinational organizations, we have in the world. This has given them the power to harm people and economies with very little being done about it. They have imposed a tremendous damage on vegetation right from the initial clearing activities to allow drilling up to careless explosions that happen during oil transportation. It is evident that most of these accidents would not occur, if these corporations valued measures to conserve the nature. Spills in oceans, lakes and rivers and other water bodies have made these ecosystems inhabitable and far much harmful to human beings. People are not only deprived of their fishing activities, but are also forced to drink poisoned water. Companies also aid in emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from their drilling techniques, and dealing with escaping gases. This has caused famous global warming, not to mention acid rains. They could show their concern for the environment by using their enormous wealth for such social responsibility activities as tree planting and restoring all their drilling and exploration sites to the condition, in which they have been before exploration or even better. However, they do not govern the exploitation irrespective of the already gained regulations (Bannon and Collier, 2003).
We all know that these capitalist companies will not just give up all their powers willingly for us to have a good and stable economy. This will take difficult and disciplined struggles by both the uncompromised part of the government and the public to grab the power away from them. These parties should keep on fighting tirelessly for a socialist revolution, as well rejecting any politicians, who show the slightest signs of being corporations’ projects in the government. This struggle will require people to voice their demands louder and ensure that proper legislations are passed, but not just proposed and rejected. The government can and should involve itself directly in the management of these corporations by setting limits of their activities and prices. This will help remedy the situation that the economy has been undergoing because of the selfish nature of these oil companies.
Governments in conjunction with world’s environmental organizations should alter the ownership of these corporations in order to ensure that they are managed and operated not only for the purpose of gaining profit, but also for bettering the lives of people. This can appear as a long call, but it will ensure that the priorities of these organizations have been restructured to lie somewhere in between the objectives of the private sector and the public one.