In chapter 15 of Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, I was surprised to see that on an oil site in Papua New Guinea, Chevron was taking active measures to act more like a nature preserve that took care of the environment, than an oil company whose goal was just to remove as much oil as possible. It was refreshing to see a sustainable oil removal operation whose process for removing oil had little to no effect on the organisms near the Kutubu oil field. Diamond even states that “ Instead, I discovered to my astonishment that these species are much more numerous inside the Chevron area than anywhere else that I have visited on the island of New Guinea…” However, Chevron didn’t just subject themselves to environmental policies and regulations out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it for 3 reasons, which include environmental motivation, avoiding expenses from environmental disasters from accidents and staying out of the limelight.
The environmental motivation from policies and regulations helped Chevron become more sustainable because they knew spending money on environmental policies would profit them in the long run. They wouldn’t have done it other wise for risk of losing their shareholders if the policies lost them money.
The second reason is avoiding unnecessary costs from environmental disasters from accidents such as oil spills. Chevron realized that it is more expensive to clean up accidents after they happen then by spending money on preventative measures to minimize the risk of accidents. Diamond states, “That is, cleaning up pollution is usually far more expensive than preventing pollution…”, which is why environmental policies and regulations are so important. These policies and regulations reduce the risk of accidents and are worth it/profitable for the oil company in the long run. They also keep big oil companies, like Chevron out of the spotlight, which is the third reason why Chevron follows environmental policies and regulations. Chevron is under the careful watch of the public eye and any accident, like an oil spill is going to attract negative attention that will cost the company billions to handle. Many people rely on the area near the Kutubu field to make a living to support their families, so any environmental disaster would severely impact their way of life and direct negative attention towards Chevron for their abuse of the environment.
The actions/expenses Chevron has taken/put forth to uphold environmental policies and regulations to have an oilfield that achieves environmental standards is truly impressive. They may follow these policies to reduce the amount of money they would have to pay, but it was successful in making them have a sustainable operation. Now we get down to some fundamental questions. How could we get the Indonesian State Oil Company discussed in chapter 15, to abide by environmental policies and regulations just like Chevron did? How can we make them want to protect the environment? Do you think we should start off with incentives or is it too late for that?
Image source site (contains numerous images from the Papua New Guinea Kutubu oil site:
Diamond, Jared. Collapse. 2006. Pg. 441-451