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It's about the oil

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
March 22, 1999


Wednesday, March 24th is the tenth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound, and attention must be paid. Like most stories in today's media, as soon as the disaster was milked for all the ratings it could, the oil spill was soon forgotten. Let's face it, one can only see the photographs of oil soaked birds and otters for so long before depression sets in. Out of sight, out of mind.

Besides, we all saw the photos of people cleaning rocks, Exxon did have to pay a small fine and both Alaska and the Federal Government seemed satisfied. If there was anything really scandalous going on, the media would have kept us informed right? Wrong. It's all smoke and mirrors.

In the civil settlement, Exxon paid the State of Alaska and the United States $900 million over the last ten years. Under the criminal plea agreement, Exxon would have paid a fine of $250 million. Criminal restitution funds of $50 million each were established with this money, $125 million was "forgiven" due to Exxon's cooperation during the cleanup, making payments on time, and environmental precautions taken since the spill.

This billion dollar Band-Aid, for the worst environmental disaster in history, would appear to be a best punitive if it wasn't for the issue of current tax laws that allow Exxon to deduct the settlement as a business expense. Add to that, another tax law which allows Exxon to deduct 70% off it's drilling and development costs, and you begin to see where all your tax money is going.

There was a reason why America was so willing to put this tragedy behind them. Having to deal with it, would mean having to deal with the destructive nature of our society. Which in turn would mean weaning ourselves from the convenience of fossil fuels and our automobiles. Co-dependency is never healthy. In this case it is down-right deadly.

I'm beginning to see why the American government is so unwilling to switch to renewable energy. There's no money in it. The next time you hear a politician say she wants to cut your taxes, find out if oil or gas industries have contributed to her campaign. From oil barons to elected officials, you have to give them credit for keeping themselves employed. By following the money, a person ends up running around in a very tight circle.

The Excursion, Ford Motor Company newest sport-utility vehicle (SUV), ironically has been dubbed the Ford Valdez. Ford claim's this 19 ft "suburban assault vehicle," at twelve miles a gallon, is "setting a bold new standard for safety and the environment." With two gas tanks they hope consumers won't notice such an obscene MPG rating.

Here in San Diego we have a choice to make. Either we demand that our elected officials stop rewarding polluters with tax breaks and government subsidies, or we begin to boycott companies such as Ford And Exxon. Either way, someone has got to pay the price. Perhaps if we started taxing pollution, there would be less pollution.

Next time you are sitting in gridlock, feeling trapped, just think of the sea birds covered in oil, and the parallels will amaze you. It's all relative. The only difference between the the birds and us is, we began drowning in oil 100 years ago. We just didn't know it.

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