Drilling and the race card


I'm old enough to remember the great civil rights struggles of the 1960s, as well as the organizations that led them, like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee, and the Congress of Racial Equality.

They accomplished much, and even though our next American president will be an African-American, there is doubtless more to do. But I didn't know that had much to do with natural-gas drilling in sensitive areas of the West until I received several press releases from C.O.R.E.

Here's the opening paragraph of one from Dec. 19: "Hollywood actor Robert Redford's recent headline-grabbing campaign to restrict supplies of clean-burning natural gas from Utah will end up hurting poor families in Chicago and across the West and Midwest, charged Roy Innis, Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality."

It went on quote Innis as he charged that Redford could afford "to heat his 13,000-square-foot mansion in Utah no matter how high home heating prices get. But grandmothers on a fixed income and single mothers dependent on public assistance in Chicago cannot. They count on energy production in states like Utah to continue so that their home heating costs stay as low as possible."

The real issue for the Midwest isn't exploration and drilling, which has declined along with energy prices in recent months, but pipeline capacity. For consumers in Illinois, it doesn't matter how much natural gas is produced in the Rocky Mountains if there's no way to get more gas to the Midwest. And with the recent financial crunch, investors have been backing out of such projects.

Further, there's an issue with C.O.R.E.'s finances. Back in 2005, Mother Jones magazine reported that ExxonMobil was donating considerable sums to CORE, which might explain why the organization is trying to turn expanded natural gas drilling in the West into a civil-rights issue.

Be Careful ...
Ken Wonstolen
Ken Wonstolen
Jan 09, 2009 02:49 PM
.. about insinuating that CORE is doing Exxon's bidding regarding energy policy. The contributions that Mother Earth finds suspicious were for a project to provide treated mosquito netting in Africa. Roy Innis makes an indisputable point, if supply is restricted, given steady or increasing demand, the price will rise. Price increases for energy hurt the poor disproportionately.
Actually, the point is dispuitable
Andy Wakefield
Andy Wakefield
Jan 09, 2009 11:46 PM
The point made in this comment that restricted supply will lead to increased prices is indisputable is actually disputable. If CORE is concerned about low income people in Chicago, it might want to investigate how much natural gas drilled in this area would be piped to Chicago rather than, say, California. Secondly, how much oil and gas is found in these areas--maybe enough to supply Chicago with gas for a few months or years, but then what? And, lastly but on a more fundamental level, you would think that CORE would criticize the wealth disparity between wealthy oil and gas corporations and poor families.
Social and Environmental Responsibility
Andy Wakefield
Andy Wakefield
Jan 09, 2009 11:36 PM
CORE's attempts to sever environmental responsibility from social equality is severely and dangerously misguided. Social equality should not be used as a tool against those who wish to protect natural environments. Instead, there needs to be increased emphasis on how the processes of social inequality are closely related to the processes of environmental exploitation. Oil and gas industries are some of the most powerful corporations that we are now dealing with. In order to maintain this power, these corporations will exploit people and natural environments alike. Look at Indian reservations in the West being exploited for their resources, for example, or even the Iraq war which is unarguably about oil and has resulted in thousands of Iraqi deaths.

  It is sad that CORE, an organization that supported Martin Luther King, someone who eloquently and ardently attacked exploitative power, would not recognize the connection between environmental exploitation and social injustice. Martin Luther King himself adeptly recognized how racism connects to a greater social sicknesses, as with his protesting of the Vietnam War. Today, those of us wishing to advance Martin Luther King's march for social justice need to also turn our gaze to environmental exploitation and how these two issues are part of a single social problem.

There are real enemies out there--and they are not the Robert Redfords of the world. We need to target the real centers of power: Halliburton, Exxon-Mobile, Cheveron, powerful utility companies. Martin Luther King recognized that taking on the power infrastructure in Chicago, like Mayor Daley and powerful financial institutions like utility companies, was going to be much more difficult than fighting provincial racism in the South. In Chicago, King had to face the very centers of power itself, something that those concerned with human dignity and environmental care must also be willing to do now.


Environmental justice
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Jan 12, 2009 11:59 AM
As Andy Wakefield points out, it's worth noting that energy extraction itself often disproportionately affects poor and minority communities -- in this country, primarily Native Americans whose land sits atop some pretty vast reserves of coal and uranium and other dirty energy sources.

Sure, escalating energy prices for poor urban families are a concern (though regulating the industry to protect folks near drilling wouldn't have much effect on that. . .see this blog post by HCN editor Jonathan Thompson). But when it comes to oil and gas drilling, what about the resulting dirty air for poor rural families (see "(Un)Clearing the air" http://www.hcn.org/issues/40.23/un-clearing-the-air-1)? Do they somehow deserve less protection because folks in urban areas want cheaper resources?

Or we can take it one step further and look at something like mining uranium to supply nuclear power. Look at what that did to the Navajo Nation -- radioactive hogans, a generation struck down by cancers of various kinds. (Orion magazine just ran a few nice pieces on indigenous communities resisting the resurgence of uranium mining to supply the "nuclear renaissance" that many folks promote as part of the answer to global warming: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/mag/issue/4232/).

Also of note: Ken Wonstolen is an industry lawyer who used to represent the Colorado Oil and Gas Association -- a trade group that opposes most attempts to increase oil and gas regulation in Colorado, where energy development was exploding until the economic slide. And CORE has ties to Americans for American Energy http://www.americansforamericanenergy.org/, a nonprofit that is essentially a front group for industry and conservative lawmakers with a resource-extraction agenda (see "Stop the War on the Poor" section of this rundown on AAE at SourceWatch: http://www.sourcewatch.org/[…]ericans_for_American_Energy)
oops--here's the link to that blog post I mentioned:
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Jan 12, 2009 12:00 PM
Drilling and the Corporate card...
Steve B
Steve B
Jan 12, 2009 10:41 PM
Let's not forget what we really need to rethink, the concept of corporate personhood! From my view, the only way to reign in these deceptive ways is to end the fictional corporate human we have allowed to be so dominate. Sorry, no ego trips here, just a view.

Roy Innis is a political tool and a hack
Socratic Gadfly
Socratic Gadfly
Jan 12, 2009 10:22 PM
As a newspaper editor, my e-mail inbox got some of his shinola about every day for the last couple of weeks before the election.

His pseudo-concerns over American Indians and drilling rights is just the latest in a line of toadyism for his Republican masters.
Natural gas to Chicago
Patrick Hunter
Patrick Hunter
Jan 13, 2009 12:33 PM
Good comments. Lots of competing interests and strange bedfellows in energy supplies. Here in Colorado, we recently saw oil and gas interests buy some politicians and kill a tax increase on fossil fuels. They threatened to pull out of the state if they didn't get what they wanted, got the vote, and then cut back anyway because of the declining energy prices. Also, as Ed points out, the existing pipelines limit export. I think that is a good thing. In other countries, the price of fossil fuel is kept high to promote reduced usage and conservation.

I believe we need a national debate on how we go forward without energy supplies. For example, prices paid now for foreign fossil fuels may be a good deal, compared to what our domestic resources will be worth years down the road. By slowing down use of domestic supplies, we are hedging for the future. We are also giving ourselves time to revamp our energy systems and usage. The poor user of natural gas for heat could be moved to a new geothermally heated "PassivHaus" building that uses no gas.
I think the overriding question on all of our natural resources should be: what do we do when they are gone? We can't look to our politicians to answer; they can only focus on the next election. This is going to take a grassroots effort bigger than the civil rights movement. The stakes are greater.
More on Roy Innis and Core
Mick Finn
Mick Finn
Jan 13, 2009 02:32 PM
It appears as though there is very good reason to question Roy Innis' input on this issue - as well as question the direction and posture that CORE has adopted under his leadership.


From a review of the information at the jump, Innis is a front for corporations with their own agendas.