Corrupted democracy, rogue state Russia, and the richest, most destructive industry on earth. This begins Rachel Maddow’s detailed book Blowout, about the oil and gas industry, and how it has corrupted countries worldwide, all to make profit, and to rule the world. The epicenter of this industry, Russia, has for many years influenced and controlled political, social-economic on their terms.
The richest and most destructive industry on earth
Around the globe, many of the key players in our politics of 2020 are also the same people involved with the gas and oil industry. Maddow provides a detailed review of this industry, and how it has evolved into propping up countries, usually in dictatorship/authoritarian form (i.e. Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and several others). The one notable exception to this is the country of Norway, who have used oil and gas to further their own democratic prosperity.
Fracking, the technique in which drilling for oil and gas is not only vertically, but horizontally drilling to obtain pockets of the material, impacted beneath tight crevices. Fracking is a fairly recent method to extract fossil fuels, and with it, has released a myriad of environmental problems. Billions of gallons of water (along with sand, thickening agents, and some toxic chemicals like hydrochloric acid to boot) is used to force-out gas and oil from pockets within rock formations. This liquid is then retracted from the fracking drill site, and deposited on the soil, and in some cases, is not easily contained. This toxic mess then invades water sources, affecting livestock and people, resulting in illness and death.
Initial fracking began in the late 1960s in Colorado. The oil and gas industry, along with help of the U.S. government, started exploring areas in Colorado by using atomic energy (yes, nuclear power), to smash solid rock thousands of feet below the surface of the earth. All in an effort to find fossil fuels. One byproduct, potentially harmful levels of radiation (radioiodine) seeped into fresh milk supplies in Utah. (gulp). This effort was abandoned in 1973, after multiple explosions did not yield the expected fossil fuel.
In the late 2000’s, the state of Oklahoma began an interesting phenomenon. Earthquake events, normally non-existent, spiked to overtake the number of earthquakes in the state of California. The west coast of California lies on the Ring of Fire, an active plate shift naturally causing hundreds of earthquakes each year. However, the oil and gas industry literally owned the state’s legislature in Oklahoma, as representatives sided with these industry execs to roll back safety and environmental regulations for fracking. Researchers at Oklahoma University determined fracking to be causing the tremors in Oklahoma. However, OU’s leadership was compromised by oil/gas industry. The dean of OU was paid more than $350K to sit on the company board. (Doubling his salary from OU). Any research confirming fracking to be the cause of earthquakes was suppressed.
They also sucked the revenue coffers dry for Oklahoma. Unlike other oil/gas industry states such as North Dakota, they aligned oil/gas revenue taxes on these companies to fill state buckets. But Oklahoma, taxes for the gas/oil companies were greatly reduced. Billions of dollars were pocketed by the oil/gas outfits, and a pittance provided to the state of Oklahoma. The back-room, sweetheart deals for the oil/gas fat cats were well greased by the slimy Oklahoma politicians.
Funny thing is, the lack of funding to the state of Oklahoma resulted in grave consequences. Lack of money for road and bridge repair, and extreme cuts to public school systems forced citizens to rise up and protest. Schoolteachers took the lead to overturn prior legislation, and tax the oil/gas companies to restore funding. These super-heroes have shown the power in citizen protest to enforce positive change.
“Democracy either wins this one or disappears.” – Rachel Maddow
Maddow covers the major environmental disasters of the Exxon-Mobile oil spill in Alaska in March 1989 and the BP oil spill (Deepwater Horizon) in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Both major environmental disasters shown a spotlight on these companies’ ineffectiveness at containing these catastrophic spills. The most effective containment system once an oil spill occurs is using material found in baby diapers inserted into the boons surrounding the spill. The ineptness of these multi dollar companies to first provide technology to prevent spills, and then have technology and systems in place to contain a spill is an eye-opener. Gas/Oil industry leaders, like Rex Tillerson of Exxon-Mobile belong in jail for their abysmal track record of harming the planet.
Maddow surmises the only way to confront the assault of oil/gas industries taking over duly elected democracies is to aggressively contain oil/gas companies. Strict regulations for safety and environmental protections are required. Citizens must hold their elected representatives accountable to ensure regulations are upheld, and stiff penalties are applied if such regulations are not adhered to. These companies are massive in their size and wealth. It will take millions of people worldwide, similar to what we are starting to see with the younger generations’ protests for taking action on climate change. As Maddow writes: “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”