Indemnity is security or protection against a loss or other financial burden, and for the American oil industry, taxpayers hand over large amounts of cash to protect oil company profits while eliminating any potential losses; typically through taxpayer-funded subsidies. Interestingly, proponents of funding already profitable oil companies are also avid supporters of free market capitalism where a business either lives or dies of its own accord, but like most things Republicans support, it is only applicable when it fits their agenda.
There were a few news reports over the past two weeks that reveal the depth of the entitlement mindset permeating the oil industry as well as their expectation that the government will force taxpayers pay for their malfeasance that Republicans are only too happy to oblige. Sadly, many Americans have bought into the Republican absurdity that it is unpatriotic to hold the oil industry to the same standards as every other American, and the industry is well aware that any demand they make, regardless how obscene, will be granted by Republicans with likely support from voters.
In Louisiana this past week, it was reported that a Halliburton-owned business, Multi-Chem, that mixes carcinogen-laden fracking and oilfield chemicals just received a $1.8 million tax break from the state after the plant blew up in 2011 nearly destroying a nearby town. It was a great deal for war criminal Dick Cheney’s former company that not only got nearly two million dollars from taxpayers, it received an expedited environmental permit from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) to build a new plant that was granted without public notice or hearing. The company did receive a fine from the OSHA ($49,000). Multi-Chem now demands an LDEQ permit to discharge waste water from its facility into local waterways.
According to an LDEQ spokesman, Tim Beckstrom, the company did not get penalized for nearly blowing up the town because “When an event like that happens we make a decision whether or not to issue a penalty, and in this case, they got right on the ball, and we didn’t identify any areas of concern, so the company was not issued a penalty.” Instead, they got a tax break despite reports that local residents experienced “a bitter taste, just a foul taste” in their mouths after drops of liquid hit them following the explosion.
Just this week, a Delaware oil refining company applied for taxpayer funding to protect its refinery from rising sea levels brought on by anthropogenic climate change. The company, a subsidiary of PBF applied for public funding to ameliorate damage to its tar sand refinery it claims is under extreme threat from ocean storm surges, rising tides, and increasingly powerful storms. Despite the oil industry driving climate change over the past fifty years, it expects taxpayers to build natural and artificial barriers to protect its infrastructure sitting on the waterfront from climate change.
The Sierra Club wrote, “Severe storms are eroding the shoreline and affecting the business of an oil refinery, Delaware City Refining Company, that is threatened by increasing extreme weather. In other words, climate disruption is hitting the doorstep of its source and it is seeking taxpayer-funded shoreline protections due to tidal encroachment – which is one way of saying sea level rise.” But the oil industry is a leading funding mechanism for climate change denial that includes exactly what the Delaware refinery is claiming threatens their profits; rising sea levels.
On its application submitted with the Coastal Zone Management Act for taxpayer protection, the company wrote that “the extent of the shoreline erosion has reached a point where facility infrastructure is at risk. The extent of tidal encroachment is obvious, and a review of historical photography suggests that the rate of shoreline erosion is increasing.” The refinery claims that the only solution is building natural sand dunes and a protective ring of buoys “that has the resilience to deal with Sea Level Rise (SLR) for at least 50 years.” The company’s only interest is taxpayer funding to protect its profits and ignores the simple fact that buoys might dissipate wave energy from tides, boats, and storms, but they will not, in any scenario, do anything to reduce the rising sea levels it admits is accelerating rapidly.
The oil industry is so accustomed to getting free taxpayer money that it expects taxpayers to foot the bill to protect the refinery from climate change damage it is responsible for. Likely, the taxpayers will end up paying to save the tar sand refinery, and its profits, instead of demanding the refinery either pay for its own climate change protection, move its refinery off the waterfront, or take steps to reduce the incredibly-dangerous carbon emissions unique to Canadian tar sand refining.
In yet another outrage against taxpayers, the Department of Transportation is warning rail carriers that the insurance they carry to cover increasing railroad oil spills is woefully insufficient and leaves taxpayers picking up the tab. In a recent analysis of a series of “troubling derailments across North America” as oil shipments by rail surge, it is proposing tighter rules in part due to some oil shippers providing “incomplete information that far understates property damage as a result of oil train incidents.” The oil industry naturally takes no responsibility for the damages its product wreaks on communities, and it is likely they are given a pass because if they were included in any accounting they would demand taxpayers pay for their culpability. As it is now, rail carriers typically carry $25 million in liability insurance that hardly pays to clean up rail car damage much less oil spills and fire damage that can run into the billions taxpayers ultimately pay for.
Americans already give the oil industry billions of dollars every year, despite their record profits, and yet it is never enough. Now, despite nearly blowing up a Louisiana city, one company received a healthy tax gift and is demanding a permit to dump wastewater into waterways. Also, despite being a major contributor to climate change that is driving rising sea levels, a Delaware refinery is demanding taxpayer money to build barriers that do nothing to halt the core problem; climate change from burning and refining fossil fuels. The real issue, like religious organizations getting taxpayer subsidies and demanding power over the government, the oil industry is used to getting taxpayer subsidies that gives them a sense of entitlement to more government money to either clean up their messes, pay for damage they cause, or protect them from the effects of climate change they create.
The American people have little say in whether the government continues spending their tax dollars to enrich and protect the oil industry, and it is down to Republicans in the employ of the Koch brothers and their oil industry cabal. It has only been four years since BP received a heartfelt apology from Republicans because President Obama demanded they pay for the damages from the Gulf Oil spill. In 2011, a CEO of one of the largest oil companies issued a statement that it was “un-American” to end oil subsidies, and a Republican Senator from Kansas concurred and said “I’d call that un-American.” This is despite a report from the International Monetary Fund that Americans give the oil industry anywhere from $10 to $41 billion annually despite a record $118 billion in profit that year.
Americans pay an inflated price for oil and gas, pay for the effects of global climate change, pay oil companies billions in free subsidies, give tax breaks to oil companies that foul sources of drinking water, and now will likely pay to protect a tar sand refinery from rising sea levels. What is telling, is that even when the people do scream it is not their place to increase oil profits, pay to clean up oil spills, or pay to protect oil refineries from climate change, Republicans keep writing government checks and call the people un-American because that taxpayer money comes back to Republicans in the form of campaign donations to keep taxpayer money flowing to what Republicans consider the real America; the oil industry.