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Is the GR Press doing PR work for Enbridge CEO?

August 16, 2010

It has been 3 weeks since the massive oil spill occurred in southwestern Michigan due to negligence from a defective pipeline owned and operated by the energy company Enbridge.

Yesterday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story based on a 30-minute interview with Enbridge DEO Patrick Daniel. Like the previous coverage, this article didn’t do much to analyze the cause and consequences of the spill that has contaminated the Kalamazoo River and the communities it runs through.

The Press article essentially allows the Enbridge CEO to provide a narrative for what has happened since July 26. The energy company CEO tells us how he reacted to hearing about the spill, to his interactions from those affected by it, as well as his thoughts about the “realities” of living in an industrial society.

“The value and importance of energy to society is so critical,” he said. “We all wish that we didn’t have to have pipelines. And we all wish that we didn’t have to experience accidents. We must remain vigilant.”

Wow. The Enbridge CEO’s comments are an amazing example of propaganda. First, Daniel wants to assure us all how important energy is to society. By framing the comment the way he did it’s as if he were saying, “Breathing air is so important to society.” By making energy this benign entity we don’t question the very nature of how or why countries like the US have become so dependent on fossil fuels.

Second, the CEO’s comments make it sound as if all societies benefit equally from the use of oil and other fossil fuel energies. Ask the Ogoni people in Nigeria if they feel that oil is a benefit to their communities. Ask the Uwa in Colombia if they are any better off because of oil or any number of indigenous groups around the world. Ask the people whose lives have been destroyed by the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Hell, ask the people along the Kalamazoo River if they see the “value” of energy in this society.

Third, Patrick Daniel insults us all by saying that he wishes that we didn’t have to have pipelines, especially ones that are defective. This statement should be seen for what it is, a statement in defense of privatized energy that operates within a system of capitalism. What the CEO really means is that we shouldn’t question how energy production happens and who profits from it.

Enbridge certainly profits from oil production and they also operate on the assumption that there will be negative environmental consequences. Enbridge and other capitalists see oil spills and environmental damage as externalities, something that doesn’t factor into the cost of doing business.

Lastly, when the CEO says, “We must remain vigilant,” he distracts us all from the fact that Enbridge has had 610 different spills between 1999 and 2008 alone, according to a report from Tar Sands Watch. If the reporter at the Grand Rapids Press were at all competent, he or she would have responded to Patrick Daniel’s statement that, “we must remain vigilant.” Instead, the Press reporter goes on to tell us that the Enbridge CEO is “a hiker, a mountain climber and an avid fly fisherman.” In the end the Press article ends up being a wonderfully crafted public relations piece for the Enbridge CEO.

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