Naomi Klein: Tim DeChristopher Guilty Verdict Exposes “Double Standard” of How “Oil and Gas Companies Privatize Profits…Externalize the Cost”
Privatization is also about buying up PUBLIC LANDS:
Fundamentally, cost externalization, occurs when a company transfers some of its moral responsibilities as costs to the community directly or as degradation to the environment. For example, railroads and airlines transfer the cost of fuel, noise, and terminal infrastructure to the community. Airlines and auto manufacturers transfer the cost of degraded air quality to the community and the environment. By externalizing to the community or the environment, many true costs become lost in analysis because the true cost is non-quantifiable and neither the community nor the environment have effective advocates to recoup the damages. A major modern theme in the relationship of business to society is the society’s ability (or inability) to resist this kind of externalization. In its extreme, society collapses as business realizes its profits.
Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was convicted last week of two felony counts for disrupting an auction of more than 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling in December 2008. Award-winning journalist Naomi Klein talks about why she signed on to a public letter of support for DeChristopher. “What did Tim DeChristopher do wrong? They said that he participated in an auction and without the intention to pay,” Klein says. “Oil and gas companies privatize the profits from their resource extraction but externalize the costs, being the pollution and the cleanup… Climate change [is] the biggest disaster of all and the highest price tag of all—this, created by the fossil fuel industries… They have no intention of paying that cost.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: So, there’s Tim DeChristopher, December 2008. He finishes a graduate school exam about the environment. He goes off to this auction. People are protesting outside. And he thinks, “Do protests really matter?” And he goes inside to check it out, not knowing that people weren’t being bonded who were bidding, so he picks up this paddle, paddle 70, and he starts bidding and ends up getting 100,000 acres of land, public land, that he didn’t plan to privatize or drill on like the oil companies and gas companies that were bidding on the other land. Naomi Klein, you’ve written a letter on his behalf.
NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm, yeah, with a group of others. It was Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Robert Redford, a letter supporting Tim DeChristopher. We all have just a tremendous amount of respect for him. And in terms of what we were talking about earlier, in—you know, what should progressives be doing in this political moment to avoid these strategies—what’s so interesting about Tim is the timing, that you just pointed out. December 2008. So, Obama had already been elected. Bush was on his way out. And this was this last-minute land grab, a resource grab. They were handing out these leases in very irregular ways. There was all kinds of dodgy things going on with the way these leases were being handed out, how quickly, the lack of process. And, in fact, Ken Salazar has agreed with Tim DeChristopher, and—
AMY GOODMAN: The Interior Secretary.
NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah—and found that process was not followed. And I think most of the leases, if not all of the leases, are not actually being sold now because of this. So it turns out that Tim was right, but he’s still being prosecuted for taking a stand.
But coming back to the timing, you know, so many of the big environmental groups in that moment were just waiting, waiting to see what Obama was going to do. And there was so much waiting, waiting to see what Obama was going to do. You know, maybe he’s really going to fix this for us, right? So let’s just give the guy a chance, right? And here’s Tim DeChristopher. Obama hasn’t taken office yet, and he’s going, “I’m just going to be loyal to my issue, to the issues that I care about. I’m not going to play politics at all. I’ll leave that to other people. And there have to be some people out there who are loyal to the science and are not playing politics.” And that is something that I found so moving about his actions, the timing of those actions, that he wasn’t waiting.
…. But there’s something else—you know, when I was reading the conviction, which is just so shocking—is that, what did Tim DeChristopher do wrong? They said that he participated in an auction, and he had—without the intention to pay. He participated in an auction without the intention to pay. And I remember hearing Tim describe why he had gone from taking that test, going straight to that auction, and I remember that he said that part of what outraged him about what the oil and gas companies were doing is that they were externalizing all of their costs. He’s an economics student, and he had been studying the way in which oil and gas companies privatize the profits from their resource extraction but externalize the costs, being the pollution and the cleanup. We see this over and over again. I mean, look at Chevron refusing to pay the cost of the disaster in Ecuador despite the court ruling. But look at climate change, the biggest disaster of all and the highest price tag of all—this, created by the fossil fuel industries. They’ve known it for decades. They have no intention of paying that cost.