Friday, May 28, 2010

Corporate power, corporate criminality and the worst ecological disaster in human history

"....whether or not the immediate trigger of the explosion is ever fully determined, there can be no mistaking the underlying cause: a government-backed corporate drive to exploit oil and natural gas reserves in extreme environments under increasingly hazardous operating conditions........ To ensure a continued supply of hydrocarbons—and the continued prosperity of the giant energy companies—successive administrations have promoted the exploitation of these extreme energy options with a striking disregard for the resulting dangers"
Michael Klare, The Relentless Pursuit of Extreme Energy
Writing in the Nation Michael Klare believes that the catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico from BP's leaking oil rig is likely to be the greatest ecological disaster in human history. Michael Klare*, who is Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College, is one of the world's leading analysts of global energy and resource politics.

Although BP continues to minimize the amount of oil leaking from the Deepwater Horizon rig, Klare estimates that the amount of oil spilt is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez spill every 4 days. The destruction is catastrophic and probably irreparable.

The Gulf seafood industry, which provides much of the seafood consumed in the US, has been destroyed, perhaps forever. The oil has poisoned the water of the Gulf, depriving it of oxygen and killing entire classes of marine species and living creatures. Whole marine and coastal landscapes have been destroyed, likely to never recover.

Klare identifies a host of actors who bear responsibility. BP is the ultimate villain. BP, whose environmental and safety record is appalling, has used its financial and political power to protect itself from regulatory oversight. It has bought off political and regulatory bodies and avoided all forms of accountability and scrutiny. Its response to the spill has been inept.

Various contractors- Halliburton, Transocean, Cameron International- as well as government instrumentalities such as the USA Minerals Management Service, have all breached legislative and regulatory requirements

Ultimately though Klare argues, responsibility for the catastrophe lies with the Bush and Obama administrations. Klare writes
"...there can be no mistaking the underlying cause: a government-backed corporate drive to exploit oil and natural gas reserves in extreme environments under increasingly hazardous operating conditions"
Klare believes that the world has entered an even more dangerous period where disasters like this one will occur more frequently and will be more destructive. Klare argues that as long as the major resources and energy firms continue to rest future profits on exploring and drilling in ever-deeper waters and more risky locations—and governments collude with them in this—more catastrophes are inevitable. Worse, the oil and energy companies do not have the existing technologies to respond adequately to the new challenges.

*Michael Klare's latest book is Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bill Leak on the Resources Super Profits Tax

copyright and acknowledgments to Bill Leak and the Australian

The hysteria from the mining and resources industry to the Rudd Government's proposed 40% Resource Super Profits tax demonstrates just how corporate Australia uses its political and financial power to protect its own privileged interests. They even claim that they oppose the tax to protect working Australians. As if!!!.

Bill Leak's cartoon from the Weekend Australian is priceless.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why we need a super profits tax on all highly profitable corporate sectors

(image courtesy of WA Today)

Corporate and business power is being mobilized to oppose the Rudd Government's Resource Super Profits Tax. (In essence this is an extra tax levied on additional profits that a corporation makes because it has been given exclusive or privileged access to a limited resource).

Already the massively profitable mining corporations are crying poor and we are hearing all sorts of dire predictions from the mining and resources industry and their corporate and business lobbyists.

But the mining and resource companies make massive profits out of Australia's resources, and existing royalties and taxation regimes are a minor part of their expenditure. Between 2006-7 the value of top mineral production totalled $100 billion, of which the Australian community retained just 7% in Commonwealth and State tax revenue.

Most ordinary Australian will support the tax as a way to ensure that super profits from Australia's sovereign mining and resources wealth actually remain in Australia and benefit all Australians. Indeed, there are good reasons to extend the Super profit tax across all business sectors, particularly the highly profitable banking and financial services industry who continue to make obscene profits off the backs of ordinary Australians.

At the moment the overwhelming majority of profits earned in Australia by mining and resource companies goes overseas. Stephen Mayne reports that 80% of Australian resource profits go to overseas owners. The majority of the major mining and resource companies operating in this country are overseas owned, even those who proclaim their Australian-ness. (Stephen Mayne has a list here of Australian resource projects that are majority foreign owned).