by Bill Van Dyk

Oily Bears

I have no doubt that if the oil industry succeeds in wheedling another chunk of Alaskan wilderness from the government to drill and develop and exploit, that they will solemnly insist to everyone that they, more than we could ever imagine, are passionate about preserving some other part of Alaska's remaining pristine wilderness for generations to come.  And then, once they have sucked up all the oil they can, their pimps in the Alaskan state government will once again whine and whimper that it is so unreasonable to insist that this other pristine wilderness area be preserved.

There is no end of parts of the world that have been despoiled by the energy or lumber or mining industry, but there are precious few parts that remain pristine wilderness.  And they will come after those parts, relentlessly, hurling millions dollars at politicians, begging and pleading, and lying through their teeth: we care about the environment.

If conservatives think liberals are fools for thinking that poor people can be improved with education or opportunities, or that negotiations can lead to peace, or that some black youths are not out to kill police officers, then liberals have a right to think conservatives are absolutely idiotic to think any energy company has the slightest interest in preserving the environment.  Industries are driven by profit: they have no conscience.  Their pr flacks will say and promise anything to increase profits.  Money doesn't weep: actors do, and the top executives of these corporations are primarily actors.

If you believe them, you seriously have to answer the question, why, do you think, they would keep those promises?  What possible incentive do they have?  Once they have fully exploited the mineral or energy resources of a given area, they can retire with untold riches.  There are no real consequences for a corporation: they can pay any modest fines out of future profits-- someone else's problem. 

It's not like perjury.  Standing in front of a TV camera and melifluously praising the mountains and meadows and creatures of some distant land promising that never, in a million years, would you do anything to harm them, cost nothing.  There are no consequences for lying. 

In 1994 Verizon promised to lay fibre optic cable to every house in Pennsylvania in exchange for over $2 billion in tax breaks.  Were they laughing even then?  20 years later, they have done nothing to deliver on that promise.  Refund the taxpayer's money?  Are you mad?  Recall the politicians who made that deal?  Can you even remember that they made that deal?  Do you care that they sold you down the river?  Not enough, apparently, to not re-elect them.

Verizon learned what the oil companies already know: they have immunity. They all know whose side the politicians are really on.