Friday, May 1, 2009

An interesting perspective on the forthcoming Green Industry?

A few years ago, I published an article in the International Journal of Environment Studies on environmental pollution and the oil industry neglect. The burning issue on my mind at the time was why were oil companies drilling in the coastal areas not being held responsible for increasing pollution from off-shore oil drilling activities. The aim of the article was to unsettle the position of the oil companies that they were not totally responsible for the deplorable state of the aquatic and coastal areas where they drilled oil. Many in the oil drilling business were aware that there were over 300 oil spills in a day in the US and Canada at the time. I sought to bring the oil companies to an unfamiliar way of thinking in the industry: the need to be a responsible corporate citizen and neighbor.

Many surveys completed by economists, petroleum engineers, scientists, and environmental protection agencies indicated that majority of the pollution experienced in downstream oil drilling were from the activities of oil exploration. The oil companies’ corporate executives were living in denials and often attempted to hoodwink residents of the coastal cities where their activities were high, by providing false press releases about accidents at their drilling sites. They provided glitzy brochures that portrayed their companies as places to make a living for local residents and establishments that provide first rate response to local disasters; not withstanding that some of such disasters and a few near misses, were as a result of their poor safety standards and oil exploration activities.

Reports from Federal Environmental Protection Agency and other oversight state agencies indicated that many of the oil companies drilling off-shore were not taking safety issues seriously; and, the question of having in place a disaster response system to reach and contain oil spill rapidly was not of high priority. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska became an environmental disaster, oil executives and corporate leaders in the oil industry started looking at themselves in the mirror and saying, it is about time that we change the way we do business. Individual companies began reviewing their own safety records, inspecting their ocean going ships and barges, asking more questions about how to operate or ship their products without doing more damage to the aquatic environment. Today, there are many oil companies with oil containment strategies which work toward reaching and trapping oil spills. There are even new players in the oil industry, companies whose profit making paradigm is based solely on providing first rate response service in oil containment and deploying systems designed to recover oil from spill without absorbing water. The problems created from Exxon Valdez oil spills indirectly created a new ‘green industry’, companies helping clean up pollution in the oceans and coastal areas and making profit in the process of doing so.

There comes my conviction that innovative individuals and companies can and will make extensive money in the anticipated green industry that the present governments of Gregoire and Obama are advancing. We only need to give them our support out of conviction of better results, given the proven results of similar companies that have developed out of an environmental disaster experience. It is with this conviction that I visualize a new industry capable of making profit from cleaning up the Duwamish River and the Puget Sound. A new industry of innovators ready to clean up the Puget Sound ground water run-offs and Washington State Rivers, while at the same time making profit out of the experience!

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