Ahead of President Obama’s big jobs speech tonight, Chevron CEO John Watson says that Obama shouldn’t call for ending the $4 billion in taxpayer handouts Big Oil receives in order to use that money to create jobs. Instead, Watson suggested, Obama should end EPA regulations aimed at keeping his industry from destroying the planet. Presumably he delivered that line with his trademark smirk, because even he has to know that it’s complete rubbish.
As Think Progress reports, green jobs are the way to go, not more fossil fuels jobs: “Green jobs being created through smart investments in our energy infrastructure are expanding employment opportunities while reducing pollution of our air and water, providing an alternative to foreign oil, and allowing us to export more American-made goods abroad.” But that won’t make John Watson rich, now will it? No, it sure won’t. Hence Watson has made his own plan.
Watson’s simple and self-serving calculations go like this: The
$4 billion $78-150 billion in tax breaks Big Oil receives every year are completely necessary and appropriate even though our nation — and most Americans — are up to their eyeballs in debt while the top five oil companies made $35 billion in profits in a single quarter this year. The real problem is the EPA’s rule on greenhouse gas emissions aimed at combating climate change, according to Watson. “I would be delighted to invest more in the oil and gas industry,” Watson says, but that pesky EPA regulation is hindering growth.
There are all kinds of flaws in Watson’s logic, the biggest being that Big Oil’s second quarter profits increased 10% over last year. So much for regulations hindering growth, eh John?
Of course, Watson meant jobs growth — he knows damn well that he and the robber barons at the top of Chevron and other Big Oil companies are making out like bandits right now, and that that’s because his industry is seeing record profits while everyone else is facing cutbacks and layoffs. Watson is mainly decrying any regulation that keeps his company from doing more drilling here in America, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, as he did in Washington D.C. recently. Don’t be fooled: Watson is still just trying to maximize profits that he and his cronies can take home at the end of the day. But he’s learned that it’s more palatable to us regular folks if he couches it in terms of job creation.
What Watson is ignoring is the fact that it wasn’t federal regulations that stopped Chevron and other oil companies from working in the Gulf: the work stoppage was due to oil industry malfeasance, which Chevron was very much complicit in at the time (Chevron may not have had anything to do with the Deepwater Horizon rig, which caused the massive oil spill in April of last year, but Chevron did have the same cut-and-paste emergency response plan that BP was using). Even despite the regulatory fallout from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Chevron was permitted to get back to drilling in the Gulf this past March. And earlier this week, Chevron announced it had made a big discovery — at a depth of 31,000 feet. The Deepwater Horizon well-head was at 18,000 feet, by comparison. And to make it even scarier, guess who Chevron’s major partner is in that venture? None other than BP.
Let’s all pray to whatever gods we may pray to that Chevron is no longer using that cut-and-paste emergency response plan, because there is absolutely no reason to believe Chevron learned any lessons from the Deepwater Horizon disaster or has taken any measures to ensure the safety of its workers, the environment, or the communities it operates in. Consider these recent examples of Chevron’s complete disregard for anything but production and profits:
- On June 21st, at a well near Taft, CA, a sinkhole filled with poisonous gas, super-heated steam and hot water opened up beneath a Chevron employee, 54-year-old Robert David Taylor, killing the veteran oilfield worker. Taylor was investigating a “surface expression,” which is what the oil industry calls it when the super-heated steam injected deep underground to loosen up crude oil makes its way to the surface, when another surface expression swallowed him whole and took his life. Despite Taylor’s horrific death, however, Chevron continued its use of steam injection until a major eruption occurred just a few weeks later. It wasn’t Chevron who decided to err on the side of caution, though: California officials were forced to step in and order a stop to Chevron’s use of the dangerous technology at the well, as it turned out that the eruption was actually one of three that have occurred since Taylor’s death.
- Chevron is being fined $24.5 million by the state of California for failing to properly inspect and maintain underground storage tanks at 650 gas stations in 32 counties across the state. Since 1998, Chevron has “violated anti-pollution laws by tampering with or disabling leak-detection devices and failing to test secondary containment systems and conduct monthly inspections.” The company is also accused of “failing to train employees in proper protocols related to the tanks and of not maintaining operational alarm systems or evacuation plans.” Working on drilling operations may be inherently risky, and the workers there may have chosen to accept that risk. But I can’t believe workers at Chevron gas stations are okay with the level of risk the company is putting them in.
- A group of hundreds of Nigerian women shut down a Chevron gas-to-liquid project in their community in protest of Chevron breaking a contract it had signed with them. Chevron promised to provide clean water and electricity in exchange for the right to operate in the community, and has so far failed to honor the contract. One of the women, Ms. Edith Odafe, said: “We are in pains. Chevron has failed in its promises to us. We need these basic things of life which they promised us. The contract is far gone and they have not done anything. They are insulting our sensibility as a people.”
Chevron had two oil spills in Salt Lake City last year, and just settled with the city (and state of Utah) to the tune of $4.5 million. That’s $3m for cleanup, $1m to compensate the victims of Chevron’s spill, and a $500,000 civil fine. Many Salt Lake City residents are upset about how low the fine is: Peter Hayes, whose son was hospitalized and whose home was evacuated during Chevron’s spill, said the fine provides no deterrent for a company the size of Chevron to continue business as usual. “The object of having fines and punishments is to alter behavior,” he said. “This fine will do nothing to change their behavior. It is insufficient.”
Another critical failing of the settlement is that it doesn’t provide funds for studying and addressing future impacts to human health as a result of Chevron’s oil spills, which doctors are warning could be quite severe. Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, says there is the potential for huge problems now and in the future, warning of a potential “cancer cluster.” “There are medical studies to suggest even brief exposure to oil can have long term consequences like cancer,” he said. In other words, many more SLC residents may experience health problems in the future, and Chevron has managed to evade responsibility for taking care of them.
As has been well-documented, Chevron puts production and profits ahead of people and planet. It even puts production ahead of its own workers. It’s not safe to work for Chevron. Hell, it’s not even safe to live near a Chevron operation.
So why would anyone want to work for Chevron? The company has proven time and again it can’t be trusted to ensure public health and safety. That’s why the best course of action is to keep the EPA regulations in place — in fact, strengthen them — and take away the taxpayer money Chevron is using to line Watson’s pockets. Creating jobs at Chevron is no solution to high unemployment. It’s a dead end, in more ways than one.