11-16-07 by dugan
Bought any of that Chevron gasoline currently averaging more than $3.40 a gallon in California? A few pennies of that will now go to pay Chevron’s $30 million settlement of a federal charge involving huge illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s government in 2001-2002. You remember, the old Axis of Evil days?
It’s not much of a ding to Chevron’s multibillion-dollar profits, but it’s one more notch on Big Oil’s record of partnership with with the world’s worst governments. There may also be criminal charges to come in the Iraq case.
The amount of the settlement is dwarfed by Chevron’s other potential liabilities, including:
Ecuador. A $6 billion lawsuit over the environmental ravages of Texaco, now part of Chevron, in the Ecuadoran Amazon.
Nigeria. The company faces a continuing lawsuit charging human rights violations against opponents in the oil-producing Niger Delta. There, a stew of oil money and corruption is to blame for widespread social disintegration and violence.
Myanmar. Chevron refuses to withdraw from its partial ownership of natural gas fields and pipelines in the former Burma. Gas money supports one of the world’s harshest juntas–one that doesn’t flinch at killing Buddhist monks or any other protesters (or journalists) daring to appear in the streets.
Kazakhstan. Chevron boasts of being "Kazakhstan’s largest private oil producer." Political opposition leaders, suppressed and often jailed by President-since-1991 Nursultan Nazarbaev, charge that his corrupt regime is supported not just by direct oil income but by huge illegal kickbacks. In 2005, after elections in which the main opposition party was banned outright, Chevron pledged $3 billion in new investment for a fivefold boost in the nation’s crude oil production.
Russia. Chevron’s attempt to buy the disputed assets of the Russian oil company Yukos prompted a letter of alarm by California Controller John Chiang, who found it such a risky, tainted investment that the state retirement fund should monitor its large investments in Chevron.
Chevron is far from alone in cozying up to corrupt, undemocratic governments. But the settlement of the Iraq charges offers a snapshot of how oil companies in these countries end up acting against the interests of indigenous citizens and in opposition to U.S. interests. It’s all to the detriment of America’s place in the world.
You may recall that Chevron also spent over $40 million on phony arguments to defeat last year’s ballot initiative (Proposition 87) to fund renewable fuel development in California. Such renewables, along with conservation, are the only relief in sight for dependence on despots. Of course, you paid for Chevron’s anti-87 advertising tab in last year’s record fuel price surge.