Saturday, May 29, 2010

Avoiding Toxic Catastrophes

Thinking about the Gulf Oil Spill and how to avoid something like this from happening again, I had a thought, and would like your opinion on it.

What if 'we the people' demanded that the fossil fuel corporations involved in catastrophic toxic spills not only paid all damages and liabilities and specific employees were open to criminal charges, but also that after the cleanup the corporation itself would automatically lose their privilege to operate as a corporation (no more licenses for anything, or at least a moratorium that lasted as long as the effects of the spill were still evident in the environment). [Notice how I say fossil fuel companies: I am including coal and their toxic coal ash rivers.]

In the event of a toxic catastrophe, the corporations would have to clean up and pay damages, some people would go to jail, the corp. would take whatever profit was left over and disburse it to their shareholders, sell whatever land, machinery and material they had at auction, and dissolve the corporation.

My thinking is that the employee who was so worried that they were three weeks off schedule might not have insisted on shoddy procedures if he knew that the corporations involved (BP, Transocean, and Halliburton in this case) would all lose their business (and he his job) on his one decision. Nor would have the platform employees allowed him to do so, or followed his commands, for fear of losing theirs. And the planners and designers would not have allowed the rig to operate without a true cleanup plan that took into consideration even unthinkable scenarios, as this one is, for fear of being liable.

The first thing that would happen is that fossil fuel corporations would start making each well independent, thereby downsizing in fear of one well talking the whole company down. The original company might begin to charge the new independent wells a royalty fee and higher financing costs, but eventually Big Oil would become a series of service companies fed by thousands of small well owners.

The second thing fossil fuel corporations would do is have much better plans made up in case of an accident.

The third thing that would happen is that the fossil fuel corporations would invest much more heavily in non-toxic forms of fuel, specifically, oil from algae, which can be done in a certified organic way, if 'we the people' legislate now, from the beginning, that it should be so.

Doesn't this follow the Precautionary Principle beautifully? I am not saying stop oil drilling/ coal mining NOW (even though that would be the best for the environment). I am just saying BE ACCOUNTABLE if you mine for toxic materials. 60% of our population live in cities that have no way to power their livelihoods other than with current toxic methods. I am saying that needs to change, and the people with the money are the people with the toxic fossil fuels. We have to give them a good hard push in the direction they must go in, for they will not do it of themselves.

So I would like to hear from all my friends, especially the lawyers, what they think about my idea.