in a Barrel of Oil
February 28, 2003
By John Stanton
The Grammy Award's selectors overlooked the American Petroleum
Institute's (API) hit children's recording titled Energy and
Me by Billy B (Bill Brennan). With its accompanying dance
video, API describes the project as one that "integrates music
and dance with energy education" for the age range 4-15. The
CD features classics like Energy Y Yo and We Can Save Energy.
Energy and Me was manufactured by API partner Project Learning
Tree, the environmental education program of the American
Forest Foundation (AFF). A visit to AFF's
website reveals that it is funded primarily by energy,
logging, paper and packaging corporations. Of the 151 listed
as donators -- API, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Tenneco Packaging
among them -- approximately 13 percent are not corporations
and include groups such as the Mead Foundation and the National
Hispanic Environmental Council.
Energy and Me is part of the oil and natural gas industry's
Energy and Society Education Program to enlighten K-8 educators
and youngsters about fossil fuels. Any teacher or student
can visit the excellent API
website and, once there, be directed to the slick Energy
& Society section which features colorful happy-go-lucky images
of K-8 aged children and a slew of user-friendly interactive
options, including quiz taking, for young and old alike. Children
can enter contests and have their parents or guardians order
Billy B's CD and video, or education kits. Energy and Me received
the third-place Parent's Choice "Recommended" Award which
means it has some redeeming value to the child listener or
viewer. And guess who submitted the production to Parent's
Choice for review? API's partner Project Learning Tree.
One of the most clever pitches in the energy education program
is the "There's a Lot of Life in a Barrel of OiI " sell which
maintains "It's amazing how many things get their start from
a barrel of oil. Everyday things like the gasoline you use
to drive to the beach Comfy synthetic fabrics you wear year-round.
Medicines to make you feel better. Fertilizer that helps your
garden grow. Plus a bevy of fun toys. Discover how much life
there is in a barrel of oil. You'll discover how the oil and
natural gas industry keeps America going strong."
So now oil and natural gas companies are K-8 educators with
a reach that extends to American kindergartners or any child
anywhere with access to an Internet connection and a web browser.
A whole generation of children will come to learn that it's
necessary to drill on wildlife refuges and "voluntarily" submit
to greenhouse reductions rather than comply with international
accords or domestic regulations. They will also learn that,
according to API, there's another 97 years before any climate
change might take place, so why worry? Let's suck up as much
as we can now and let other generations handle the impending
disaster. According to API, "The severity of a future problem
is unclear. Also, if serious climate problems develop, they
may not occur until the end of the century or later. Finally,
the costs of reducing emissions-and therefore the impacts
on the economy and consumers-vary greatly depending on when
and how green house gases reductions are made."
API's educational website exudes comfort, tranquility, soft
colors, and the feeling that, yes, thanks to America's energy
folks, they really do "Keep America Going Strong". All's well
in their hands.
Dirty & Murderous Business
Those K-8 youngsters will never learn that the energy business
is a filthy one in which US and European governments -- and
their militaries -- must and will resort to any tactic in
any country to get the oil and natural gas companies in a
position to extract and deliver product. Nor will they learn
how some oil and natural gas companies have engaged in ruthless
and, allegedly, murderous actions against host country nationals.
Moreover, they will not realize that they themselves, their
parents, their communities, their economies, their governments,
and their militaries are vile addicts hooked on the bubbling
crude. Without oil and natural gas, economies would collapse
and citizens would revolt. By the year 2030, both the US and
Europe will need to import close to 70 percent of their oil
and natural gas. The US already imports close to 15 million
barrels of oil per day. All that to drive alone -- unsmiling
and unhappy but smelling clean -- a $40,000 four-passenger
vehicle to and from work each day.
Stability of supply is critical and the only way to get it
is to take over the oil producing world. It really is that
simple. And that is precisely why the US and Europe--the latter
being appalled at the thought of US dominance of the world's
oil and natural gas supply--are so keen on taking out heads
of state in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela (in other words,
reduce risk investment), and are anxious to have countries
like Crotia, Poland, Bulgaria and Slovenia in the NATO Pipeline
alliance. The US has entered Colombia's decades-old civil
war against the FARC not because FARC has anything to do with
communism or drug running, but because FARC operatives disrupt
the flow of oil through Occidental's pipelines. And it's laughable
to listen to militant Republicans and Christians -- and their
Democratic counterparts -- moan on and on about China-as-threat,
China-as-human-rights abuser when, in fact, every red-blooded
American oilman and woman wants a piece of China's energy
market, particularly if they can get upstream equity in their
The US Energy Division of the International Trade Mission
announced recently that in October 2003, it's running a trade
show over in Kazakhstan, one of America's newest and most
trusted allies in the US War Machine. "Kazakhstan's booming
oil and gas sector presents numerous opportunities for U.S.
companies that provide oil and gas equipment and services.
International consortia operating major projects such as Tengiz,
Karachaganak, and Kashagan expect to invest billions of dollars
over the next few years. There are opportunities for U.S.
companies in virtually every subsector associated with oil
extraction, processing, and transportation."
Never mind the fact that Kazakhstan has a brutal post-Soviet
Union human rights record. Human Rights Watch reported on
an incident typical in that country under President Nursultan
Nazarbaev. " In 2002, Kazakh government repression of independent
media reached crisis proportions, as journalists were attacked
and beaten, threatened with death, and jailed. Media outlets
connected to [the President's] political rivals, and journalists
who attempted to expose official corruption, were particular
targets of the crackdown. In May, the twenty-five-year-old
daughter of independent journalist Lira Baiseitova disappeared
the day after the journalist published a controversial piece
in the newspaper SolDat (Let Me Speak) regarding personal
Swiss bank accounts allegedly held by the Nazarbaev family.
In June, police informed Baiseitova that her daughter, Leila,
had been arrested for heroin possession, but did not grant
the two a visit. Days later, Leila Baiseitova died in police
custody; Lira Baiseitova received conflicting reports about
the cause of death, including a police claim that her daughter
had hanged herself in her cell. Lira Baiseitova had herself
been the victim of physical attacks in 2000 and 2001."
Not to be outdone by a puny government like Kazakhstan, ExxonMobil
employs close to 5,500 Indonesian security and paramilitary
forces to protect its gas field in Aceh. Each is paid $294
per month for protecting ExxonMobil's operations there. In
2002, 2,700 people reportedly lost their lives at the hands
of ExxonMobil's security employees. It is accused of complicity
in the murder and sexual molestation of locals by its paid
security forces, along with the unjust imprisonment of Acehnese
Democratic Resistance Front leader Kautsar who was released
from prison late in 2002.
Shell Oil has played that game too. It was accused of fomenting
a killing spree in the early 1990's in Ogoni, Nigeria according
to Human Rights Watch. The Movement for the Survival of the
Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, mobilized thousands
of Ogonis, an ethnic group of 500,000 people occupying a portion
of the oil producing region, to protest the policies of the
federal government in relation to the oil wealth, and at the
human rights violations of Shell Oil -- to include importing
weapons for its paid security forces. In 1993, Shell was forced
to close its production in Ogoni following mass protests though
active pipelines still cross the region. MOSOP's protests
provoked a violent and repressive response from the federal
government, for which any threat to oil production is a threat
to the entire existing political system.
Many Ogonis were detained or beaten by the Rivers State Internal
Security Task Force, a military body specifically created
to suppress the protests organized by MOSOP, and hundreds
were summarily executed over a period of several years. In
1994, Ken Saro-Wiwa and several others were arrested in connection
with the murder of four traditional leaders in Ogoni. On November
10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP activists were hanged
by the military government for those murders, after a trial
before a tribunal which blatantly violated international standards
of due process and produced no credible evidence that he or
the others were involved in the killings for which they were
The Interstate Oil and Gas Transport to Europe (INOGATE)
provides an illuminating Perspectives
Map. The Perspectives Map matched with current and projected
US and European military movements puts an interesting light
on the destruction of the former Yugoslavia, the entry into
NATO of some unlikely members, the pounding of oil drums from
Bush and Blair, and the change in the Pentagon's view of peacekeeping.
Like varicose veins that mar the skin, bright red and dark
green lines indicating pipelines and energy flows are drawn
over the whole of Europe, Scandinavia, Central Asia, Northern
Africa, the Middle East and Persian Gulf -- including Israel
and Cyprus. New NATO entrants Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and
Poland have key ports for shipping energy products. The Constanza-Omisalj
oil pipeline project involving Romania, Yugoslavia and Croatia
seems a nice, if coincidental, benefit of US and NATO action
back under the Clinton Administration.
Twenty-one countries have signed the INOGATE Umbrella Agreement
which simply means that they will do whatever it takes to
minimize risk to investors. What better way to do that than
have the US or NATO forces in-country (and buy their weapons
and products), or have a regime that brutally suppresses dissent
and ensures that the investor's risk is minimal. And after
a look at the Perspectives Map, it's clear why Bush appointees
in the Pentagon wiped-out the term "Peacekeeping Operations"
and opted for "Stability Operations". A nice tip-of-the-hat
to the oil, natural gas and banking and investment communities.
Now, API members no longer need to hire host nation security
forces because they now have in their employ the US Armed
Services to handle pesky locals who complain about low wages,
poor living conditions, hunger, destruction of their environment,
and their own governments who -- bought by the US and Europeans
-- sell off the wealth of their nations at ridiculously low
prices. Does that really make America stronger?
Oh, well, no matter. Just get your copy of Billy B's Energy
and Me from your child, stick it in your vehicle's CD player,
and merrily sing-along as you make your way alone to and from
work. And remember, there's lots of life and a lot of fun
in a barrel of oil.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national
security matters. He is co-author with Wayne Madsen of the
forthcoming book, America's Nightmare: The Presidency
of George Bush II, March 2003, Dandelion Press. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.