The Daily Gamecock

Environment needs protection from exploitation

Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture proof of inadequate environmental regulations

About two weeks ago, America was yet again reminded of the devastation caused by major oil companies on our country’s environment and communities. Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., March 31, spilling oil onto lawns and roads and permanently diminishing property value.

Major spills akin to this have become more frequent over the years, raising questions of why we continue to tolerate these patterns of devastation. However, despite the increase in awareness and protection of our environment by some corporations, there still lies the underlying doubt of where the scales of justice reside among the people, government and corporations.

As the world’s need for oil increases each day, supplies are depleting before our eyes. To compensate for the dwindling resources, oil companies like Exxon Mobil and Enbridge have discovered a way to extract oil from its natural substance of tar sands, also called “dilbit,” commonly found in the Boreal forest of Alberta, Canada. Dilbit is a thick, semisolid tar, containing oil which can be utilized at very low costs.

With financial surplus in mind and no regard to the health and safety of the environment and people, major corporations have begun to rapidly transform this evergreen forest into a toxic wasteland.

For every gallon of crude oil a company transports, an 8-cent tax is attached to that barrel, which finances the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a safety net for emergency spill cleanups and other negative repercussions of oil damages. However, oil companies profit from dilbit because, according to a bill passed in the 1980s, it is not considered a crude oil. With just fewer than 100,000 barrels sent through the Pegasus pipeline every day, Exxon Mobil avoids $2.7 million in taxes a year for oil spills similar to the Arkansas incident.

Since 2010 America has experienced a stream of tar oil spills throughout the country. In April 2010 the BP oil spill sent 4.9 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. Later in 2010, Marshall, Mich., was devastated by 1 million gallons pouring into the Kalamazoo River. Both places are still recovering from the devastating effects to their homes and natural habitats.

Enbridge, a major oil company, spent $25.8 million lobbying Congress to get a $20.8 billion in tax loopholes and gaining $59 for every dollar they spent lobbying. With these trends, it’s becoming clear the government should intervene and take responsibility for protecting and regulating what corporations don’t seem capable of controlling. However, the Pegasus pipeline proves there’s still not enough being done.

Cases like this open up the debate on government interests. Do they lie in the corporations that feed the government millions of dollars a year, or the commonwealth of America who stand for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? The answer is obvious.


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