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Commentary :: Environment
CA Governor Candidate Alexander, SPUSA: BP Oil Spill a Crime not a Disaster
13 May 2010
The explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that released millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has been called a “Disaster” by many. It isn’t a disaster. It is a crime.
A Socialist Party USA Statement

By William Wharton

May 13, 2010

Language matters, especially at times of crisis. The explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that released millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has been called a “Disaster” by many. It isn’t a disaster. It is a crime. Early estimates are that the spill will cost more than $14 billion to clean, will devastate local fisheries for generations and will result in untold damage to all parts of the ecology in the Gulf region. Corporations are the criminals here – British Petroleum (BP) and, a company that is no stranger to corporate crime, Haliburton. This massive spill highlights both the need for an immediate transition to clean energy sources and the need to apply democratic controls to inherently criminal multinational corporations.

The cleanup of the area must begin immediately; it must be conducted with the consultation and best interest of local fishermen and environmentalists and it must be entirely paid for by BP. In addition, BP should be made to pay into a public fund that would be used for the continued cleanup and preservation of the local ecology. Any failure to meet these demands should result in the seizure of the US holdings of BP and its banning from conducting business in this country. Anything less than this should be considered as a betrayal to the best interests of residents of the region and the broader international community.

This massive oil spill demonstrates the urgent need to transition to clean renewable energy forms. Such a transition will not likely take place inside of a capitalist system where short-term profiteering dominates the allocation of capital funds. BP has fought the federal government on safety procedures that might have minimized the impact of the most recent spill for more than a decade. CEOs do not get bonuses based upon ensuring future generation’s access to resources, clean air, or hospitable climate. The purpose of corporations is not to oversee the welfare of the people of the world, but to make money. Environmental damage is not factored into the corporate calculations of cost and profits. Instead, environmental damage is viewed as the collateral damage of the free market in operation.

Not surprisingly, BP had a partner in this crime – Halliburton. Fresh off their stint bilking US taxpayers during the war in Iraq, the company was contracted by BP to cement the drill, oil well and pipe into the ocean floor. The Los Angeles Times reports that this task was completed in a mere 20 hours before the well exploded. Not surprisingly, Halliburton has also been accused of being responsible for another oil spill in the Timor Sea last August after completing a similar cementing job. Here we see the logic of capitalism in full display. BP wants to take the cheapest bid for the job and Halliburton wants to pocket the most money with the least costs. All with no mind paid to the environment, local fishermen, or the future of the planet.

Meanwhile, politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties serve as willing accomplices to the corporations. In 2008, the McCain/Palin ticket was run on the suicidal slogan of “Drill Baby Drill!” The campaign of now President Barack Obama softly dismissed these claims, but once in office, designed a plan to allow oil exploration off the coastlines of North America. The current spill exposes the bankruptcy of Obama’s drilling plan and the futility of his cap-and-trade market based proposals to address carbon emissions. Corporations will continue to pollute the environment as long as they have political partners who will allow them to evade the desires of the vast majority of people in this country for clean energy and a safe environment.

The Socialist Party USA offers a clear eco-socialist alternative to the proposals of the two parties. By establishing a system of public ownership and democratic control over our natural resources, we will ensure that corporations are prevented from exploiting and spoiling our environment. By creating strong enforceable laws regarding endangered species that focus on habitat-centered protection, we propose to begin repairing the damage done by capitalist production. Finally, we intend to bring the United States back into line with the world by signing on to international environmental treaties and participating and supporting grassroots environmental justice efforts. In short, our goal is to create a cleaner, more democratic future where environmental preservation, instead of profit motive, becomes a primary part of economic decision-making.

Capitalist profit-motive will be the death of our planet. Democratic socialism, operating on an international basis, can save our fragile ecosystem and our health by defending the rights of future generations to clean water, clean air and a democratically run society.

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