While President Bush remarked in his State of the Union speech last week that “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world”, I was just returning from the fifth-largest oil importer to the United States, Nigeria. Nigeria, Africa’s leading oil producer, exports 2.5 million barrels of oil daily, mostly from the swampy Niger Delta, home to some of the world’s most productive oil fields but also to millions of people living in extreme poverty. And similar to Iraq and other oil rich nations, there is currently unrest in the Niger Delta’s which could fluctuate world’s oil prices.
This form of unrest has been in the region for decades, but it reached maturity when environmental and community activist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa and eight of his compatriots were executed by the military government of Nigeria in 1995. The reason for the execution was because of their non-violent campaign to protect the rights, livelihood and environment of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta.
Despite the executions, western oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell, which controls nearly half of Nigeria’s output, and Exxon Mobil still reap extraordinary corporate profits, while communities in the delta region (who are in resistance to oil extraction) continue to suffer from extreme environmental consequences from oil spills, climate change, gas flaring pollution as well as political repression.
With more gas flares in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world, our administration and major corporations are faced with crucial choices between choosing between increasingly more profits as oil prices rise or to support the health of humanity and the planet.
Now that “Oil Addiction” is on center stage, there is no better time to connect the intimate dots in the chain of oil destruction than now. The U.S. consumes more oil than any other nation and more than two-thirds of all the oil we use is for transportation. While the rest of the world deals with the tensions in oil rich regions like Nigeria, we should adopt a 12 step plan that includes Jumpstarting Detroit and steering the worse oil addict in the auto industry, Ford Motors Company in the right direction.
Starting today, let’s get in the business of supporting alternative ideas for our oil independence, instead of investing in 30 second, “Kermit the Frog” greenwashing.