(We are pleased to welcome special guest blogger Peter Maass, acclaimed journalist and author of the new book Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, which includes a chapter on the Ecuador story. Peter sends us a report from the ASPO 2009 International Peak Oil Conference in Denver.)
When a grown man wakes up in the morning and dresses in a yellow chicken suit, he is hopefully heading to work as a mascot for a sports team. Not so with the men in chicken suits whom I saw protesting outside a Denver conference on peak oil on Monday. The guys in yellow were distributing flyers from an energy firm that wanted everyone to know that apparently the sky is not falling in terms of oil supply; there’s more than enough crude out there if only, these talking Chicken Littles said, we would drill baby, drill.
Whether the proponents are dressed as animals or not, one of the annoying aspects of the let’s-drill-more-wells argument is that it doesn’t address the environmental damage in countries that do not have the will or the power to enforce pollution regulations. While researching my book on oil, one of the most ironic sights I came across was in Nigeria, where the extraction facilities in the Niger Delta are akin to high-tech fortresses in a panorama of poverty and violence. I saw oil wells that dripped fluids into the creeks, and my canoe glided on water coated with a film of crude. I nonetheless noticed a sign at one facility, run by Shell, that encouraged everyone to “Keep Nigeria Safe and Clean.”
A consequence of America’s relatively strict environmental regulations (not strict enough for everyone, I know) is that we don’t see and don’t really know the earthly disasters that irresponsible extractive practices cause in other countries. We are, for instance, the largest purchaser of crude from Ecuador, where a terrible mess was left behind by Texaco when it handed over its concession after more than two decades of reckless operations. In environmental terms, the sky has already fallen in Ecuador, where you can smell oil in the air as you drive through the despoiled Oriente region. I hope the men who dressed as chickens, or the people who paid them to do so, take the time on Friday to attend the Denver screenings of “Crude,” Joe Berlinger’s powerful documentary about Ecuador. They can dress however they like.
CRUDE opens in Denver at the Landmark Mayan 10/16 for ONE WEEK ONLY https://tickets.landmarktheatres.com/Landmark.aspx?TheatreID=229