FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Standing Rock and Beyond: Big Oil’s Corporate Dislocations and Extortions

If a corp (o’rat) wants to be criminally normal, here is how it must think/act:

Conceive of a project that is bigger than ever, yet still propagandizable as ‘in the public interest’.

Such capitalization, in the billions, makes it eligible for government-engineered (made-easy) credit access, and with regulatory approval already ‘play-booked’, for example, as with oil and gas.

Make the project as ‘venturesome’ (risky) as possible, thus bondable only in those high-yield categories the especially brave, free market entrepreneurs alone dare to inhabit, ostensibly creating benefits for everyone.

Big banks are anxious to use their tax-gifted, ever accumulating slush funds (already in the hundreds of billions) to financially ‘correct’ low interest environments.

Such projects are said to deserve their automatic (publicly guaranteed) insurance policies against any/all failures, given they are integral to ‘our’ economy, especially as general job creators.

‘Too big to fail’ projects are not subject to the free market, democratic process. They are not about ‘informed consumers making rational choices’. Foreign Trade Agreements, for example, are made in secret. Slick advertising of the effective kind, affordable only by big, corporate money, is highly successful in shaping public attitudes. The corporately touted basis for ‘free markets’ becomes undermined.

Indeed most risky, big project ideas (think internet) are developmentally funded by public money, at places like MIT. Upon corporate adoption, such tax-financed, highly promoted developments will yield insured, private profit, not free market trials under creative competition.

A particularly instructive ‘case in point’ is fracked oil and its delivery. At current and expected prices ($50/bbl), US oil is largely uneconomic to produce and pipeline to market. For example, the break-even price for both the Bakken (ND) and Niobrara (CO) oil fields has proven to be, on average, at least $75/ bbl (includes acquisition, leasing, capitalization, and transportation charges).

Of course some wells, a few percent in very localized ‘sweet spots’, can still yield profits. However, large scale projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), if based on total-formation output figures, will prove wholly unjustified–least of all for any public-benefit argument used to justify takings of private property, say by eminent domain proceedings.

For example, it simply does not make economic sense to justify DAPL’s $5 billion project cost on the basis of 400,000 bbl/day Bakken production if 90% of that oil, 360,000 bbls/day, is transported simply to recover some revenue from bad, initial investments at the wells.

The environmental degradations from the daily pipeline releases experienced across the US are huge. However, such costs do not figure into official economics. They are simply dismissed from accounting as ‘economic externalities’—another of the privileging violations of actual free market cost/benefit.

At current oil prices, the Bakken has few ‘economically recoverable’ reserves–the only ones that count in Securities Exchange calculations of legitimate investment. Accordingly, the future of legitimate oil development’s production/transport per the Bakken is highly speculative; too much so to establish any clear public benefit from DAPL. For example, if today’s proven oil reserves provided all US consumption, their depletion would fail energy independence in only 1.5 years.

Under a full accounting, DAPL’s justifications for forcible ‘takings/leasing’ finally evaporate altogether. For example, according to the International Energy Agency, two-thirds of all oil reserves must stay in the ground if economically devastating climate change limits are to be heeded. DAPL approval is therefore a form of climate denial, one directly counter to Obama’s professed doctrine requiring special review for all additions of climate-influencing infrastructure.

So, why take oil’s public risks, such as its economic and environmental dislocations from pipeline ruptures, when clean, renewable solar is currently available, more economically. For example, solar produces utility-level electricity at less expense than does oil production’s natural gas complement, according to our National Energy Lab (Berkeley). Renewables are even replacing oil in production of plastics and clothing.

Clearly, the oil industry is experiencing a market-based decline known as ‘creative destruction’ under solar penetration. It can no longer compete, even though hugely subsidized. Exxon, the world’s leading oil company, experienced stock price declines (17%) apparently due to profit declines (17%) since 2014, and had a credit rating reduction to its lowest value in 17 years.

The smart money is ‘going solar’; divestments and bankruptcies in oil are increasing (105 filings since 2015; expecting around 200 overall).

Oil is rapidly becoming the dinosaur of energy, yet it continues to enjoy developmental subsidies, world-wide, of about a million dollars per day. Oil is not a rational-market operation.

Indeed, oil’s bigger-than-ever project justifications, such as DAPL, can only be entertained within a captive regulatory framework whose blatant defiance of rational, democratic choice is increasingly being understood as a form of Class Warfare, one enabling an economic elite to extort wealth from a 70% disenfranchised public (Princeton study.)

Witness the deep, gritty awareness at Standing Rock, ND where indigenous people are the first to make all of the above crystal clear in their direct resistance to Big Oil as Water Protectors. What can be more fundamental to well-being than that?

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
Lee Camp
Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace
Steve Martinot
The Desire to Kill
David Yearsley
The War on Kitsch
Amy Eva Alberts Warren – Rev. William Alberts
Why are Certain Christians Democratic and Others Authoritarian?
Lawrence Davidson
Covid Madness
Brian Cloughley
Britain’s Disorder and Decline
Ellen Taylor
The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World
David Rosen
White Nationalists on the Attack
Jeff Cohen
Politicians of Color Should Not be Immune From Criticism
Joseph Natoli
Drawn Away from Reality in Plain View
Frank Joyce
Give Me Liberty,  Give You Death
Jonah Raskin
My Adventures in the Matriarchy
Paul Street
The Racist Counter-Revolution of 1776
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Corruption of the Democratic Party: Talking to Ted Rall about his new book
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Trump’s Record on Foreign Policy: Lost Wars, New Conflicts and Broken Promises
Paul Edwards
A Bridge Too Far
Jennifer Joan Thompson
How to Do Things With Theses: Chile’s National Police Force Sues the Feminist Artistic Collective, Las Tesis
Shawn Fremstad
Vacations for All!
Thomas Knapp
A Modest Proposal for Compromise on “Confederate” Military Bases
Vijay Prashad, Eduardo Viloria Daboín, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Venezuela’s Borderlands Have Been Assaulted by COVID-19
Thom Hartmann
COVID Masks: The Latest Faux Conservative Outrage
Jesse Jackson
Mandatory College Football Practices in Time of Pandemic are Nuts
Nicholas Vincenzo Barney
Consensus Politics on the Fringe: The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Intellectual Dark Web
Ted Rall
The Data is Clear: Progressives Should Boycott Biden
Theresa Church
In Reconsidering ‘Normalcy’ Genetically Engineered Trees Do Not Belong
Chelsea Carrick
Let’s Not Lose Momentum
Adam Rissien
Sorry Secretary Perdue, Our National Forests are Not Crops
Arshad Khan
India and China Tussle on the Roof of the World
Paul Gilk
A Few Theoretical Percentages
Thomas S. Harrington
“New Corona Cases”:  A Phrase That’s Tells us Very Little, if Anything,  About the Actual Levels of Danger We  Face
Claire Chadwick
I Got COVID-19 at Work. I Won’t be the Last
George Wuerthner
The Upper Green River Should be a National Park, Not a Feedlot
Julian Vigo
Profiteering in the Era of COVID-19
Ravi Mangla
Policing is Not a Public Good
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail