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Environmental Stakeholder Cleanup

Jul 24, 2007

For many years, decades and centuries the world has struggled with the concept of who is responsible for keeping the environment clean.

People point (that's a key concept) at the oil companies, the refinery owners, the transporters of the products, the gas stations, the automobile industry, the EPA, the national, State and Local governments and more.  They rarely point at themselves as consumers of that energy.  They complain when energy is not there, they complain about energy prices but they do nothing to curb their own consumption.

BP is receiving a great deal of attention in the Lake Michigan region after its Whiting refinery received a permit to discharge a higher level of particles in discharge water that goes into Lake Michigan.  The Chicago Tribune ran an article about the grass roots effort taking place to send an email of protest to the government.

Now, maybe you recall the gas shortages last year across the country resulting from a refinery bottle neck.  BP states that they are attempting to work within the laws to meet guidelines enabling an increase in refinery capacity for the Midwest region and that the Chicago Tribune has missed or over looked several facts(I'd describe this as 'Trying to sell Newspapers' by printing the things that get people stirred up.  I'm glad they are stirring people up, but the call to action is missing the mark. 

To highlight BP's facts they point out that they are

  1. investing $3 billion total to modernize the Whiting Refinery
  2. Directing $150 million of that $3 billion towards enhancing the wastewater treatment capability
  3. and state that they only release treated water into Lake Michigan.

Now people are rightly concerned about any activity that would release a greater amount of anything into our lakes.  The problem is that people are attacking the Band-Aid (BP refinery) treating the symptom (gasoline shortage in US) instead of fighting the cause(dependence on carbon based energy sources from Oil to ethanol or coal sources of power).

*disclaimer.  I'm writing this article less than a mile away from a coal burning power plant that discharges hot water into Lake Wylie in North Carolina.  The lake is 4 feet below me while I type on a fishing dock.  I work from home and do not commute to work so I am taking steps to reduce my own consumption of fuel, but haven't eliminated it as much as I would like.

Stakeholder Approach

Its good that this issue has come up.  It gives all of the stakeholders a chance to work together and improve the situation specifically at the refinery and in general around the world.

The government does contend that they allowed an increase in the discharge level in their permit because its is impossible to remove all of the particles from water.  On the flip side environmental detractors polarize the debate talking about this discharge of 'sludge.'  As I see it both sides here are in the wrong.  The government needs to approach the environment with a 'can do' attitude.

Matching Environmental Responsibility and Accountability - A New Industry is Born

I do not buy the argument that it is not possible to remove all of the particles from the water.  I do not however put the entire burden on BP to clean it either.  If BP is not capable of getting their emission down to zero, then the government that licenses BP needs to step in and receive the water and the responsibility for cleaning it.

The government needs to take responsibility for our land and the licenses they issue to use the land.  That means if they will not require zero emissions, they need to clean the water the rest of the way themselves.

How can they pay for this?

Taxes of course.  Taxes would have to be raised primarily from income taxes and sales taxes.  A tax surcharge would be paid by businesses that operate in industries that create discharge relating to the production of carbon emitting energies.  And all of those protesting consumers would have to pay higher sales taxes at the pump to pay for the clean up of their discharge from utilizing the products that come out of that refinery.

Now, at the end of the day, the government is going to prove that they are not the best people to handle this type of work and they will likely outsource it to some sub niche of an industry that can get the job done and has experience at it.  The most experienced companies that will likely bid on these jobs will be companies like BP.

So BP and competitors in the same industry will win government contracts to clean the water the rest of the way.  The government will have oversight through the laws prescribed to prevent government contractors from abusing the government (more teeth than the EPA has) and our water will get cleaned up as we start to match up Accountability to Responsibility from the gas consumer to the government to the industry and beyond.

Personal Objective Disclosure - BP sponsored me to consider weighing my objective opinion on this subject. I have done that and my opinions are not necessarily those promoted by BP. If you are interested in my political beliefs, I consider my self a Republican with Libertarian tendencies. I think most Republicans higher up in the party are corrupt and I have very little in common with Christian Conservatives that were hijacked into hijacking the Republican party.

WooHoo ed by Unknown at 4:11 PM  

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