"In 2010 the world watched in horror as the Gulf of Mexico filled with 5m barrels of oil from an undersea leak caused by the careless handling of equipment on the part of BP and its partner Halliburton. Shocking images of uncontrolled spillage erupting from the ocean floor travelled around the world for weeks, sparking a media frenzy, a range of stern governmental responses and a huge amount of public outrage. BP has spent millions on the clean-up and millions more on a public relations campaign, all in an effort to repair the damage it caused to the Gulf but also to its image and, perhaps more importantly for BP, to its share price.
"Last month, on the other side of the Atlantic, the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell's operation caused from 1m to 2m gallons of oil to spill into the ocean off the coast of Nigeria, also as the result of an industrial accident. It was the worst spill in Nigeria in 13 years in a part of that country where the oil and gas industry has been despoiling the environment for more than 50 years, on a scale that dwarfs the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico by a wide margin. Shell claims it has completely cleaned up the mess, but villages counterclaim the oil has been washing up on their coastline. The world's media seem to be uninterested in checking the facts.
"In any other region of the world the behaviour of the companies involved would result in major sanctions and criminal prosecutions. Hundreds of square miles of sensitive coastal wetlands have been poisoned, perhaps forever. Fishing areas have been turned into toxic waste zones. Village life has been grotesquely refashioned as a result of flaring gas fumes and pipelines that sometimes run through people's homes. Disease, birth-defects and chronic illnesses are all part and parcel of an unregulated industry that operates outside the range of global media but with the full complicity of the Nigerian government that wants nothing whatsoever to upset its unctuous cash-cow.