The True Cost of Chevron

Rebecca Tarbotton
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In advance of Chevron's annual shareholder meeting in Houston next week, a damning report of the oil giant's global operations was just released. The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report was written by contributors from 16 countries and 10 states where Chevron's business is wreaking havoc on local communities, the environment, and our climate.

If you live in California like I do, you probably know that Chevron is the Golden State's largest corporation, but did you know that Chevron is the 5th largest corporation on the planet? And, while they have spent millions on advertising campaigns to convince the public they are a different kind of "energy" company, the fact is Chevron's investments in alternative energy are dropping (<1.8%) while their current business model is causing tremendous damage around the globe.

The report encompasses the full range of Chevron's activities, from coal to chemicals, offshore to onshore production, pipelines to refineries, natural gas to toxic waste, and lobbying and campaign contributions to greenwashing.

From the coalfields of Alabama to the oil fields of Indonesia, the report reveals Chevron operations mired in accusation of extreme human rights abuse (Angola, Burma, Indonesia, Chad, and Nigeria); mass environmental and human health devastation (including Ecuador, Kazakhstan, and Canada); toxic abuse of its neighbors (including Alabama, California, Mississippi, Texas, Thailand, and the Philippines); abuse of its workers (including Utah); threats to endangered species (including Australia and the U.S. Gulf Coast); and, in Iraq, intensifying the violent insurgency and putting the lives of U.S. and Iraqi service members at greater risk.

All the while, Chevron continues to promote itself as a 'green' energy company while, the report reveals, expanding its coal operations (it was recently exposed as operating one of the most dangerous mines in the U.S., the Kemmerer, WY mine), offshore, and Canadian Tarsands operations; being named California's single largest stationary Greenhouse Gas emitter; and being identified by Barrons as one of the 'oiliest' of the world's major oil companies.

Next week, people from all over the world (whose stories are highlighted in the report) will be converging in Houston for Chevron's annual shareholder meeting.

Chevron's shareholders are showing increasing concern about the liabilities and risks associated with the company's irresponsible and deadly global operations. A number of shareholder resolutions have been filed - and are gaining significant support - that are a response to the revelations in today's report.

For example, Oxfam is sponsoring a shareholder resolution (and has been putting direct pressure onChevron's board members) "Regarding Disclosure of Payments to Host Governments."

Chevron pays out billions of dollars in royalties, taxes, and other payments to host governments in its countries of operation. In many countries, these vast undisclosed sums of money have fueled corruption, repression and conflict. Chevron has refused to adopt a policy of disclosing payments in every country of operation. It has also not supported the U.S. Energy Security Through Transparency Act, a bipartisan bill that would require all SEC-registered companies to disclose payment information on a country-by-country basis.

As the report reveals, Chevron is the largest foreign producer of Angolan oil. Many Cabindans claim Angola illegally annexed the oil-rich territory and they blame Chevron for financing the Angolan government's repressive hold on Cabinda ever since. Oil revenues largely financed Angola's bloody internationalized civil war until 2002. Despite the ongoing war, Chevron steadily increased offshore production. The Angolan government uses military force in Cabinda to quash protest and secure resource-rich territory.

There are also shareholder resolutions urging the appointment of an independent Director with environmental expertise; regarding guidelines for country selection; on financial risks from climate change; and the development of a human rights committee.

Community leaders from Angola and Burma will join people from Nigeria, Ecuador, Australia, and the Gulf Coast inside Chevron's shareholder meeting on Wednesday. They will share their stories and ask Chevron's Board members and CEO John Watson to do the right thing and stop destroying their communities.

I will be doing a series of interviews with these courageous leaders next week. Tune in here at SFGate.com to learn and listen to the people who are bearing the real costs of Chevron's global business.

 
 

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