Big Oil - First Nigeria then the World

Big oil in Nigeria - executions, pollution and suffering (Image)

Michael Collins

The big oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is not the first to threaten a people's way of life.

Just ask the Ogoni people from Nigeria's oil rich central Niger Delta. Their experience over decades offers a model of things to come without serious changes in consumption and regulation.

Since the early 1960's, oil spilled from Shell pipelines has fouled their region. Food and fresh water sources vanished. Their economy collapsed. While Shell and the Nigerian elite reap their rewards, the people in the polluted oil regions live with steadily declining jobs, incomes, and living standards.

The amount of oil spilled in just this region during the 1970's far exceeds that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. The problem has been continuous since then. Most of it is still sitting there

In some critical ways, oil exploration, pollution, and the reaction of Shell and the Nigerian government parallel the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe.

There is virtually no regulation of oil exploration and operations in Nigeria. Similarly, new deep water drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico were granted without environmental impact studies.

The government of Nigeria abandoned its sovereign obligations to protect the people by failing to take charge of clean up operations. In the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, BP took the lead in repair efforts while the United States government accepted an oversight role.

The Nigerian oil industry ignores locals in hiring and contracting. BP uses locals as public relations props for its cleanup operations.

The Nigerian government makes blames oil companies for turning the country into 'World Oil Pollution Capitol', yet does little to stop the situation. The U.S. government is investigating criminal charges against BP while it allows BP control of the crime scene.

Nigerian and international press are chased off of the scene by Shell and the other oil giants just as BP chases away the media and citizens who try to document and report on the Gulf catastrophe.

The Nigerian government blames "rebels" for the oil spills. The government tried and hanged those who resisted what economists call the Dutch Disease, Shell's ruinous impact in Nigeria's economy. There have been few demonstrations in the U.S. and no trials of protesters. However, federal whistleblowers who tried to warn the world of what we're seeing today were ignored.

They can't do that here. Can they?

It's happening here right now. Why think the BP catastrophe is the first and last of its kind. There are 4,000 active drilling platforms in the Gulf. BP isn't the only oil giant to make major mistakes.

Think of it as a lottery. This year it's BP. Next year it could be Exxon, Shell, or one of the smaller companies.

This deep water drilling foul-up threatens to turn large sections of the Gulf of Mexico into dead zones for decades. It will happen again.

How many dead zones can we tolerate?

Oil at Any Cost

The U.S. consumes 25% of the world's oil supplies. The breakneck pace of exploration and extraction activity worldwide is a direct outcome of that consumption. The Nigerian oil spills, the deaths, the suffering, and the long term pollution are an outcome of the voracious consumption of oil led by the oil dependent G-20 nations.

New G-20 club members are ready to join the first world's oil orgy. China consumes 10% of the global oil supply currently. That figure will soar over the next few years. India represents another rapidly expanding market for oil. The two combined will soon shove the U.S. into third place among the major nations reliant this toxic substance.

Drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico is directly tied to the demands of U.S. consumers. The public must quickly make the links between oil dependence, human suffering, and the destruction of the habitat.

Solutions Offered

The American Power Act was hailed as the grand effort that would change the face of U.S. energy consumption and dependence. Analysis of the act shows that it maintains oil as a key pillar of the economy. Assumed oil use in 2030 is about the same as it is today and today we've got BP ruining the Gulf of Mexico with other disasters pending.

Doesn't it occur to our so-called leaders that we're in a crisis situation?

We can't maintain our society, as it stands now, without maintaining big oil. That means more major catastrophes that will foul large segments of the earth; the places where we live and earn our living.

Industry friendly analysts say there's no way to get rid of oil it as they deride alternative fuels. The rulers assent by accepting this false premise. This is their excuse to issue more drilling permits in ever riskier locations.

And no one in the power structure has the courage to call out the G-20 governments and oil concerns (many of which are government run).

We're in a death spiral of industrial calamities that are all for the sake of producing petroleum products that will, in turn, create another set of appalling calamities called man made climate change.

Major regions of the world stand in peril from looming Gulf of Mexico class catastrophes. And all the oil companies and their friends can say is: You're stuck with us. Give us more drilling permits now.

Where's the leadership, the innovation, the mobilization like that seen for the fateful project that created an entirely new form of energy, the Manhattan Project?

How about a Manhattan Project to save the planet?


This article may be reproduced in whole or in part with attribution of authorship and a link to this article.

Previously: The White House, Big Oil, and the "American Power Act",

Too Big to Exist (TBE) - Big Oil, and The Sovereign State of BP - Down for the Count? Also see: Ogoni Charities, Inc. and Wiwa v. Shell



Nigeria, IXTOC,Gulf, Alaska, Santa Barbara, the World.


Good post on Nigeria. The same spill story has been repeated in Nigeria as in the Ecuadorian Rain Forest. The Gulf Spill is a big deal because now it happens the the U.S.
Those other 'small people' do not count as much as the small U.S. people. All of this has a Conrad Heart of Darkness feel. Brutal and neo-colonial.

California out right banned offshore drilling after the 1969 spill of Santa Barbara.

Now comes the really bad news about Big Gas. A documentary called GasLand will appear next week on HBO. The fracking story sets kitchen faucets on fire.

A contemporary American story would not be complete without an outsourcing angle. No domestic supertankers exist and ships need be sent from around the world because no U.S. Tankers are made in generations. The sole U.S maritime company is Maersk-Sealand. Obama cannot order the Danes. Jones Act will not allow trans-shipping between U.S. ports.

Doesn't the Invisible Hand manage all these crises? The Supply Chain as an industrial model just does not work in war time or in any kind of national emergency. Either we start to make things or else start liking this mess.

Burton Leed

I agree 100%


You're right about the chauvinism - exceptionalism perfecta. Welcome to Nigeria. At least in Ecuador, the government is fighting back. Can't wait for the fracking story. What a deal! Move to the burbs and your faucet breathes fire.

There's so much opportunity for this country, it's stunning. Yet the powers that be keep snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, consistently and blatantly.

They'll be gone at some point. I hope that they don't take us with them.