There are multiple ways for people with money and power to gain further profit from major crises. The most straightforward is that when everything goes to hell, those who already have resources can buy more resources cheap. Property, dying businesses, debt, and vital services all get taken over by various oligarchic entities while most of the public is struggling just to get by. People can’t afford not to sell, don’t have the resources for legal battles, and are too busy scrambling to make ends meet to pay attention to what’s going on.
That lack of attention means that corporate interests can use their power to get access to things like natural resources. In this case it’s made all the more easy because of the GOP’s love of filling government positions with people whose loyalties and ideology run counter to the jobs they’re supposed to be doing. What’s the best use of the Interior Department’s time? Why, selling oil and gas leases at bargain prices!
Secretary Bernhardt is attempting to tackle this unprecedented event by dusting off an old DOI Bush administration-era pandemic flu plan and putting his second-in-command in charge of overseeing the safety of the roughly 70,000 people employed by the Department of the Interior.
So who’s safe hands has Secretary Bernhardt assigned this issue to? That would be former fossil fuel lobbyist turned Interior Deputy Secretary Katharine MacGregor, the newly confirmed deputy secretary who has been recently implicated in DOI policy changes that ignore worker safety and expert advice, and is also accused of working to remove safeguards related to public health and the environment.
So perhaps it is no surprise that earlier this week, in the midst of the pandemic, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management sold just under 14,600 oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico for the bargain price of $100 million over the protestations of environmental groups.
Lest you fall for the Biden fallacy and think that this is somehow unique to the Trump administration, this is straight from the playbook used by the administration of George W Bush when they sold off a huge amount of America’s land and natural resources as they were on their way out the door in 2008. It also makes me think of what’s happening in Bolivia right now. The coup there happened just after the Morales government announced that rather than virtually giving away the country’s natural resources, as the corporate world has come to expect, they would require that those resources be turned into products in Bolivia, by Bolivian workers. It’s also worth noting that if any effort is ever made to reclaim control of resources that were “sold” so cheaply, the corporations and their supporters will insist that it’s their rightful property, as they did with Venezuela’s oil, and use it as justification for political meddling ranging from lobbying, to sanctions, to assassinations and coups.
At a time when we should be doing everything we can to end the use of fossil fuels, and to leave as much of them in the ground as possible, the capitalists of the world continue working to burn every last speck of the stuff, or to empower those who are doing so. They value money over humanity, and so their power needs to be taken away. Like everyone else, they have rights to housing, healthcare, food, water, and freedom of speech. They do not have the right to poison the air and the water, or destabilize the global climate for personal gain. Since that’s how they’re using their power and wealth, they don’t have a right to those either.
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