The #AmINext protests of the past two weeks were a game-changer for South Africa, writes Adriaan Basson.
Light showers. Partly cloudy. Cool.
My friends keep nagging me: “Now that I’m boycotting BP because of the oil spill, where should I buy my petrol?” Why they ask for my advice is beyond me. They must know by now that I’m the biggest cynic when it comes to questions about multinational companies and their environmental records.“Makes no difference. They’re all equally bad!” is my standard answer.Perhaps I shouldn’t be so flippant. The disgusting mess BP has created in the Mexican Gulf has left motorists with a conscience in a quandary. So which service station do you pull into when your petrol gauge hits empty these days?CaltexBad choice! Chevron - aka Caltex - is embroiled in one of the largest environmental lawsuits in history for turning a remote region of the Amazon into a “Rainforest Chernobyl” that has been described as the worst oil-related disaster ever.Texaco, a company that merged with Chevron in 2001, extracted oil in northern Ecuador for nearly three decades and when they got out in the 1990s, they left behind over 900 open pits leaking toxic petroleum pollutants into groundwater and rivers used for drinking, cooking and sanitation by the local population. They’d also dumped billions of litres of toxic “formation waters”, a by-product of the oil drilling process, into local streams.The result: widespread contamination of soil, air and water, increased rates of cancers, birth defects, respiratory diseases and miscarriages, and the destruction of the traditional way of life of the indigenous population. According to an independent expert appointed by an Ecuadorian court, the company is liable for damages to the tune of $27bn.SasolLocal isn’t always lekker. I’m told that it’s neither fair nor relevant to mention that the process which Sasol uses to convert coal into oil is Nazi technology adopted by Apartheid South Africa. It is pertinent, however, that it produces large amounts of CO2. Sasol spews out over 70 million tons of the greenhouse gas annually and its plant at Secuda is notorious for being the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.TotalThe French oil major was responsible for what is considered the country’s worst environmental disaster when crude from a sinking tanker resulted in a 400-kilometre-long oil slick along the coast of Brittany in 1999. Total is also being investigated for bribing Iraqi officials under Saddam Hussein to secure oil supplies and it’s currently being sued for condoning the use of slave labour in the construction of a pipeline it operates in Myanmar despite EU sanctions against the military dictatorship there.ShellRemember Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight Ogoni compatriots! Sure, Royal Dutch/Shell didn’t exactly put the noose around their necks, but as the biggest oil player in the Niger Delta, the company was complicit in the state-sanctioned murder of the activists who spoke out against the exploitation of their people and homeland.Shell began drilling in Ogoniland in 1958. Today, the countryside is dissected by pipelines, the air, soil and water are polluted, the locals are suffering from abnormally high levels of cancer, asthma and other diseases and their fisheries and livelihoods are severely degraded. The flaring of natural gas in Nigerian oil fields is responsible for more global warming than that from the rest of the world’s oil fields combined. An estimated 13 million barrels of oil have been spilled in the delta - equivalent to an Exxon Valdez disaster every year for the last 40 years. Shell has been accused of causing an average of five 16 000-litre oil spills every week.EngenAnd we have a winner. Engen is a subsidiary of the Malaysian national oil company Petronas and while they’re responsible for some comparatively minor spills, they haven’t been reported for any major disasters. Yet. So at this stage Engen might just be your most ethical choice when it comes to filling up your tank.I retain my right to be cynical, though. The petroleum business is dirty and so are the organisations that run it. All we can do is choose the least tainted company in a thoroughly rotten bunch. What we really need is a way of living that doesn’t depend on oil in the first place.- Andreas manages Lobby Books, the independent book shop at Idasa’s Cape Town Democracy Centre.
Send your comments to Andreas
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the
expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on
News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the
views of News24.
24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.
What makes a great Formula 1 driver? Is it their natural 'raw talent'?
According to an international fashion authority.
How does mom's anxiety affect baby?
Audi’s crossover and SUV offering has received a notable consolidation.
Here's how you can slash that price in half.
Highclere Castle is now open to the public.
Here's what to watch in local cinemas.
A quick dinner when you simply can't bother making pasta from scratch.
Cape Town CBDElite SourcingR15 000.00 Per Month Per Month
ClaremontVelocity Trade Financial Services (PTY) Ltd
Cape TownHyperion DevelopmentR10 000.00 - R30 000.00 Per Month
R 8 295 000
R 3 750 000
We subscribe to the Press Code.
You choose what you want
News24 on Android
Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.
Terms and Conditions
24.com Terms and Conditions - Updated April 2012
Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.
This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.