In response to my August 1 article questioning progressives’ support
for San Francisco entering into an energy deal with Shell Oil, I learned new troubling facts about the city’s proposed partner. On Feb. 19, 2013 the Sacramento Bee reported that California electricity consumers were overcharged by $1.6 billion
because of excessive rates charged during the energy crisis in 2000. A number of companies were involved in this market manipulation, among them Shell Energy North America. The same Shell Oil that was involved in the murder of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and which is being considered to run CleanPowerSF. According to state PUC Commissioner Mike Florio, "This money was stolen from ratepayers in California by a bunch of sellers who conducted business like pirates." These pirates were from Shell Oil. And international protests of Shell's ongoing wrongdoing in Nigeria continued this week. Here's why.
Although my August 1 story focused on just a few of Shell Oil’s abuses, there is no shortage of tales of wrongdoing about Shell. In addition to its piracy toward consumers, Shell’s destructive business practices in Nigeria did not end when opponent Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed in 1995.
To the contrary, Shell is spending tens of millions of dollars annually to maintain a 1200-person security force to protect its operations in the Niger Delta. Why is such a large force needed? Well, in 2010 Shell admitted spilling 14,000 tons of crude oil in the creeks of the Niger delta in 2009
, double the year before and quadruple that of 2007.
On August 5, 2011, the UN released a report confirming Shell's massive oil pollution in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta. It said that the clean up would take at least 30 years and $1 billion. But no money has been committed and the clean up has not begun.
In the past week, there have been worldwide protests against Shell's refusal to clean up its mess in the Niger Delta. Friends of the Earth International launched an international, online campaign this week targeting Shell. To keep up with this campaign, follow platformlondon.org
Residents of the Delta are understandably angry with Shell’s despoiling of their land, and are only kept at bay through violence. This is the type of colonialism that was supposed to have left Africa decades ago, but Shell’s alliance with Nigerian dictators keeps it going.
San Francisco officials who favor giving Shell the CleanpowerSF contract should go to Nigeria and see Shell's spoilage firsthand. They should talk to local residents and activists and ask them if San Franciscans should trust Shell to provide truly clean energy at a fair price.
I suspect residents of the Niger Delta would find the very notion of Shell getting a San Francisco energy contract unbelievable. Yet the San Francisco PUC and some Supervisors continue to move in this direction.