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Posted on on May 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Biggest Criminal Enterprise in History.


The Summary:

“Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity.”

if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos executive you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product.  In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2,  as we all live on the same planet (though it’s also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).



The Biggest Criminal Enterprise in History
(illustration: unknown)   Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
Engelhardt writes: “In the case of the terrarists – and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell – you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren.”


By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

23 May 13

e have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be “terracide” from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.


The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.


In the case of the terrarists — and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell — you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.


It wasn’t that complicated. In recent years, the companies they run have been extracting fossil fuels from the Earth in ever more frenetic and ingenious ways. The burning of those fossil fuels, in turn, has put record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Only this month, the CO2 level reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. A consensus of scientists has long concluded that the process was warming the world and that, if the average planetary temperature rose more than two degrees Celsius, all sorts of dangers could ensue, including seas rising high enough to inundate coastal cities, increasingly intense heat waves, droughts, floods, ever more extreme storm systems, and so on.


How to Make Staggering Amounts of Money and Do In the Planet:

None of this was exactly a mystery. It’s in the scientific literature. NASA scientist James Hansen first publicized the reality of global warming to Congress in 1988. It took a while — thanks in part to the terrarists — but the news of what was happening increasingly made it into the mainstream. Anybody could learn about it.


Those who run the giant energy corporations knew perfectly well what was going on and could, of course, have read about it in the papers like the rest of us. And what did they do? They put their money into funding think tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing “doubts” about the science (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promoted what came to be known as climate denialism. Then they sent their agents and lobbyists and money into the political system to ensure that their plundering ways would not be interfered with. And in the meantime, they redoubled their efforts to get ever tougher and sometimes “dirtier” energy out of the ground in ever tougher and dirtier ways.


The peak oil people hadn’t been wrong when they suggested years ago that we would soon hit a limit in oil production from which decline would follow. The problem was that they were focused on traditional or “conventional” liquid oil reserves obtained from large reservoirs in easy-to-reach locations on land or near to shore. Since then, the big energy companies have invested a remarkable amount of time, money, and (if I can use that word) energy in the development of techniques that would allow them to recover previously unrecoverable reserves (sometimes by processes that themselves burn striking amounts of fossil fuels): fracking, deep-water drilling, and tar-sands production, among others.


They also began to go after huge deposits of what energy expert Michael Klare calls “extreme” or “tough” energy — oil and natural gas that can only be acquired through the application of extreme force or that requires extensive chemical treatment to be usable as a fuel. In many cases, moreover, the supplies being acquired like heavy oil and tar sands are more carbon-rich than other fuels and emit more greenhouse gases when consumed. These companies have even begun using climate change itself — in the form of a melting Arctic — to exploit enormous and previously unreachable energy supplies. With the imprimatur of the Obama administration, Royal Dutch Shell, for example, has been preparing to test out possible drilling techniques in the treacherous waters off Alaska.


Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity.


Their prior knowledge of the damage they are doing is what should make this a criminal activity. And there are corporate precedents for this, even if on a smaller scale. The lead industry, the asbestos industry, and the tobacco companies all knew the dangers of their products, made efforts to suppress the information or instill doubt about it even as they promoted the glories of what they made, and went right on producing and selling while others suffered and died.


And here’s another similarity: with all three industries, the negative results conveniently arrived years, sometimes decades, after exposure and so were hard to connect to it. Each of these industries knew that the relationship existed. Each used that time-disconnect as protection. One difference: if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos exec, you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it’s also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).


If Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 plane hijackings or the Tsarnaev brothers’ homemade bombs constitute terror attacks, why shouldn’t what the energy companies are doing fall into a similar category (even if on a scale that leaves those events in the dust)?

And if so, then where is the national security state when we really need it?

Shouldn’t its job be to safeguard us from terrarists and terracide as well as terrorists and their destructive plots?


The Alternatives That Weren’t:  It didn’t have to be this way. PLEASE READ ON


On July 15, 1979, at a time when gas lines, sometimes blocks long, were a disturbing fixture of American life, President Jimmy Carter spoke directly to the American people on television for 32 minutes, calling for a concerted effort to end the country’s oil dependence on the Middle East. “To give us energy security,” he announced,


“I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel — from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun… Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20% of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”


It’s true that, at a time when the science of climate change was in its infancy, Carter wouldn’t have known about the possibility of an overheating world, and his vision of “alternative energy” wasn’t exactly a fossil-fuel-free one. Even then, shades of today or possibly tomorrow, he was talking about having “more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias.” Still, it was a remarkably forward-looking speech.


Had we invested massively in alternative energy R&D back then, who knows where we might be today? Instead, the media dubbed it the “malaise speech,” though the president never actually used that word, speaking instead of an American “crisis of confidence.” While the initial public reaction seemed positive, it didn’t last long. In the end, the president’s energy proposals were essentially laughed out of the room and ignored for decades.


As a symbolic gesture, Carter had 32 solar panels installed on the White House. (“A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people: harnessing the power of the sun to enrich our lives as we move away from our crippling dependence on foreign oil.”) As it turned out, “a road not taken” was the accurate description. On entering the Oval Office in 1981, Ronald Reagan caught the mood of the era perfectly. One of his first acts was to order the removal of those panels and none were reinstalled for three decades, until Barack Obama was president.


Carter would, in fact, make his mark on U.S. energy policy, just not quite in the way he had imagined. Six months later, on January 23, 1980, in his last State of the Union Address, he would proclaim what came to be known as the Carter Doctrine: “Let our position be absolutely clear,” he said. “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”


No one would laugh him out of the room for that. Instead, the Pentagon would fatefully begin organizing itself to protect U.S. (and oil) interests in the Persian Gulf on a new scale and America’s oil wars would follow soon enough. Not long after that address, it would start building up a Rapid Deployment Force in the Gulf that would in the end become U.S. Central Command. More than three decades later, ironies abound: thanks in part to those oil wars, whole swaths of the energy-rich Middle East are in crisis, if not chaos, while the big energy companies have put time and money into a staggeringly fossil-fuel version of Carter’s “alternative” North America. They’ve focused on shale oil, and on shale gas as well, and with new production methods, they are reputedly on the brink of turning the United States into a “new Saudi Arabia.”


If true, this would be the worst, not the best, of news. In a world where what used to pass for good news increasingly guarantees a nightmarish future, energy “independence” of this sort means the extraction of ever more extreme energy, ever more carbon dioxide heading skyward, and ever more planetary damage in our collective future. This was not the only path available to us, or even to Big Oil.


With their staggering profits, they could have decided anywhere along the line that the future they were ensuring was beyond dangerous. They could themselves have led the way with massive investments in genuine alternative energies (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, algal, and who knows what else), instead of the exceedingly small-scale ones they made, often for publicity purposes. They could have backed a widespread effort to search for other ways that might, in the decades to come, have offered something close to the energy levels fossil fuels now give us. They could have worked to keep the extreme-energy reserves that turn out to be surprisingly commonplace deep in the Earth.


And we might have had a different world (from which, by the way, they would undoubtedly have profited handsomely). Instead, what we’ve got is the equivalent of a tobacco company situation, but on a planetary scale. To complete the analogy, imagine for a moment that they were planning to produce even more prodigious quantities not of fossil fuels but of cigarettes, knowing what damage they would do to our health. Then imagine that, without exception, everyone on Earth was forced to smoke several packs of them a day.


If that isn’t a terrorist — or terrarist — attack of an almost unimaginable sort, what is? If the oil execs aren’t terrarists, then who is? And if that doesn’t make the big energy companies criminal enterprises, then how would you define that term?


To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? Isn’t that terracide?


Comments to the original article on their website:

+33 # tswhiskers 2013-05-23 11:15

Thank you, Mr. Engelhardt. This lays out the agenda of the rich and the far right perfectly. Enough said.
+31 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 11:57

This is 100% pure capitalism. Why is anyone surprised? Once upon a time, caring for each other and Mother Earth was celebrated, and was how we lived (no, not the “we” now, but native peoples worldwide – until the greed and arrogance of Europeans destroyed and continue to destroy native peoples worldwide). So fellow Amerikans, celebrate your wonderful capitalism until it poisons you and everything to death, starvation, cancer, boils and pus. Death by all means possible. That is what we’ve earned for ourselves, the most horrible of nightmares, nightmares that are not even yet conceivable, coming to all of us and the entire planet. Capitalism: worship it and commit suicide, homicide and genocide, not to mention terracide, by abhorrent means. What we need is a little purification – next blog …
+1 # WestWinds 2013-05-23 18:31

I agree with you, indian weaver. I used to love America for what I thought was her kindness and generosity, but lately I have come to understand exactly how awful white people can be, especially to indigenous peoples. It makes me ashamed to be white.
+14 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 11:59

by Indian Weaver
April 4, 1995Intimations everywhere, no one can refute that.
Twisted minds sought wealth itself, got lazy, rich and fat.
Unheeding growls beneath the ground, we steered a steady course,
Sailed dead ahead, stealth’s frightful dread, as if without recourse.We sucked the water from the wells and backfilled in our filth.
We trucked our waste to landfill dumps. Our streams filled up with silt.
Mortgaging our future against daily selfish sprees,
We polluted sylvan lakes apace. Down came old noble trees.

At beck and call, we wrecked it all, not planning far ahead.
Out of control, we dug for gold, ripped deep into Earth’s bed.
Mucked out black coal, sucked deep black gold while Nature watched us lose
Her gift beholden to God’s children, reduced to liar’s ruse.

Clean waters could not purify the stench of massive trash.
No one decried air’s belching sighs from flaming garbage gas.
Contaminated soil ceased to nurture nourishment.
Efforts small to fix it all were false, criminal repent.

Disaster craved unwilling souls to speak on its behalf.
Mutated lifeforms, animals and plants fled habitats.
Diversity ceased to exist, most living things would perish.
Witness many families slewn, toxed-out, poisons nightmarish.

continued …

+10 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 12:00

Purification continued:As life wound down, heartless humans wrought a widespread death.
Spared no one. Bleached bare bones. Throttled bated breath.
Innocently creeping round, those still living were ill cursed.
Lamentful cries to darkening skies, surviving ills they nursed.Fires raged on while blood congealed from putrefying kill.
Rivers choked, frogs ceased to croak and fled creeks cracked and still.
The oceans quickly became sickly, void of deep sea life.
A thick salt lick did just the trick, preserved death’s muted strife.

Courage enough to try again, hobbling crippled from sad swamp.
A disemboweled planet suffered from misguided madmen’s pomp.
The animals emerged from caves, emerged from forest glen
To seek their heritage again, freed of greedy men.

New nests in trees, birds flirt with bees, gold plains of grains re-grown.
Lambs thrill their fill on verdant hill. Trees fruit in fertile loam.
Good corn can grow which rodents sow, energizing those alive.
Breathe deep the pleasures of Earth’s treasures. Strive to let friends thrive.

‘Twixt God and Mother Nature, my brave planet did recover.
My Father righted some foul wrongs, my Mother mended others.
‘Twas Man begot who went to pot and performed impure deed.
Break Cosmic Law and draw short straw. With Golden Rule be freed.

+7 # bingers 2013-05-23 13:46

I find it ironic that Indian Weaver who so frequently justifies the right wing despoilation of the world also is aware of the right way to live.I believe we’re more than 100 years past the time we should have given back the lands we stole from the native Americans and returned to whence we came.
+9 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 15:26

You must be thinking of someone else. I have always been far left, way off the left wing edge, beyond left wing, far beyond … not from this planet. Actually, I am not a human being but I play one on RSN.
+11 # bingers 2013-05-23 13:43

I truly believe that capitalism unchecked by strict regulation will always destroy everything in its’ path. RThat being said, the biggest criminal enterprise in history is not cvorporations running out of control. That’s the natural state of things. The biggest criminal enterprise in hstory and one that should be charged with multiple RICO charges is the Republican party which has enabled these outrages.
+4 # mdhome 2013-05-23 15:58

Enabled? Hell they have pushed that agenda which will end the world as we know it!
+4 # angry 2013-05-23 13:44

This article has it wrong. This world’s biggest conspiracy is the US Congress, who take cash bribes from anyone with money.It doesn’t matter what the issue — the campaign contributions to politicians by big oil companies, by Monsanto of GMO fame, by the private prison industry and security guard unions, by the defense industry, or the bankers, or whatever industry of the day — political corruption at the top is this nation’s BIGGEST threat.IT is the big fire… all others are pure and intentional distractions. WE taxpayers will all pay dearly, or our kids will, Lefties and Righties alike. ONLY public funding of campaigns will save our democracy and avoid a bloody rebellion, and ONLY a near-100% turnover in 2014 will accomplish that. Whether R or D, we need new blood, and we need constant turnover. And we need political leaders that are owned by US rather than THEM.

Jack Lohman

+5 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 15:09

Once our politicians became professional politicians, we became doomed. A term limit would have to be imposed and enforced on each elected official, on every position in congress, to give our nation a chance. It’ll happen when Hell freezes over.
+10 # Inspired Citizen 2013-05-23 13:57

“where is the national security state when we really need it?”The corporations run the state. That’s why nothing is being done about this crime against humanity, and nothing will get done until we the people rise up and stop the corporations from 1) buying candidates and 2) having the rights of natural persons.Fight the power: sign the petition today.

+5 # giraffee2012 2013-05-23 14:00

Most Americans pay no attention to these facts and those who do feel helpless. The OIL companies’ lobbyists have insured that these giants are above regulation.One solution is to vote EVERYONE out of Congress in 2013 and 2016 and beyond. Can you get off your couches to campaign for a new candidate? The ones in office have super pacs funding them and we don’t know who gives money to the pacs But rest assured that BIG OIL and BANKS and “YOU KNOW WHO” are funding the pacs to continue to rape the 99% for profit and power.Gosh I wish we had a G. Washington to lead a revolution. But today those rifles and muscats (whatever) are not going to cut it – The only power we have left is the VOTE.

But “we just don’t get it”

Reading these facts (and others on RSN) while useful information is depressing to me because I rarely (if ever) see a solution —

Am I missing something?

BTW — Bill Gates and those who have such big bucks COULD fund a “NEW” candidate in pac form but…….

+4 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 15:14

Nah, you aren’t missing anything. We ARE doomed. Of course that is depressing isn’t it? Ask your relatives / sons / daughters / grandchildren / friends what their jobs are doing for our future, the future that belongs to all of us. That is conscience speaking. Choose to act and earn a living that does not contribute to the oncoming annihilation of Mother Earth. It’s hard. Might take the rest of your life trying out ways to live honestly, but not to try is criminal, weak, cowardly, and viciously cruel to all. That pretty much defines our culture – no conscience.
+2 # mdhome 2013-05-23 16:03

IF you do the research, you will find there are a few in congress that are helpless without more who can turn the congress around and get the country to look beyond the next election.
+8 # fredboy 2013-05-23 14:13

Blessed with a most remarkable planet, our species is the only one hellbent on destroying it. Or at least destroying our own species. When you think about this it is beyond stupidity or absurdity–it is, quite literally, sociopathic.
+3 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 15:18

With impossible luck, only humans would become extinct, within weeks hopefully. But, that ain’t the way it works, sorry to say. Maybe some scourge like leprosy, SARS, or other deadly diseases will take out humans to such an extent that the leftovers, the survivors will recognize the errors of our ways. Probably not however. The survivors would most likely go on to eradicate themselves the same way. This is why no intelligent life has been found in the universe: it always eradicates itself, hence: was not intelligent life to begin with. But like us: greedy and arrogant right up to the instant (“small bang”, not the big bang) we wiped ourselves out of the universe.
+7 # coberly 2013-05-23 14:50

well, it’s not as if we couldn’t stop smoking.given the chance to switch to smaller more efficient cars, we decided we like bigger and faster better.blame the gas companies all you want. but it’s you and me who pay them to do it.

+7 # truthbug 2013-05-23 14:54

I don’t think terracide is an apt term here. It implies the death of planet Earth, and humans are not capable of killing the planet. We can possibly make the planet uninhabitable for ourselves, but the planet – and probably life on it – will go on. Let’s not over exaggerate our own capabilities and see ourselves for the fools we really are.
+3 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 15:23

I think it is possible for us to immolate the planet. IF the global warming does what is predicted, it will accelerate and increase in power and heat, much like a nuclear bomb. Eventually this nuclear chain of events will incinerate all on the planet – including rock / air / water, and self-incinerate as it approaches and exceeds warp heat within itself. This is the likely result of human existence. Eradication of Mother Earth. Talk about Cosmic Tragedy – this is how to make it happen, and it will happen. Your foot is on the accelerator.
0 # RobertMStahl 2013-05-23 15:11

9/11 or Boston Bombings, you can’t just sit there and lie to tell such an important story! Read Paul Craig Roberts, or Ron Unz and act responsibly. The ‘grave robbing’ mentality of this article, the way it starts off, does such a vast amount of harm to the main point. Context is everything (Bateson), and any hope for a greater truth must not start blatantly ignoring evidence. …, or truth.Nevertheless, good point.
+2 # Hitchhiker 2013-05-23 15:45

Lets not lose sight of the ball.
Yes, the politicians are totally corrupt – the political system is totally corrupt – but that is human nature; It is you and I with our petty corruptions writ large.
Suggesting that everybody needs to rise up and throw out all the incumbent politicians is a nice idea that everybody knows is unachievable, and the System that promotes corruption – that allows the “lobbyists” to be part of the political conversation – is still there.
We have the power as individuals to make change, and its not by Voting, which is a rigged system that allows you to choose between Dumb and Dumber.
The Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin. Any other political party that could rise and break that duopoly will be subverted to
dance to the same Corporate tune. Einstein said that the definition of Madness is doing the same thing over and over again – and expecting a different result.
We fight the Corporations that are destroying this planet by individual action, no matter how small.
We can fight Corporate power the same way they keep us under control – by divide and conquer. Hit the bottom line of a powerful Corporation, so that
they are forced to fight with you instead of against you.
Its just a matter of selection – and the Will of enough individuals to do the small things – all pushing in the same direction – to move mountains.
+2 # indian weaver 2013-05-23 16:38

“Einstein” by Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster, 2007, p. 494.Einstein also said:“If the idea of a world government is not realistic, then there is only one realistic view of our future: wholesale destruction of man by man.” – Albert Einstein, 1948. Einstein comment on the animated antiwar film, WHERE WILL YOU HIDE?, May 1948, AEA 28-217.

“I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth – rocks.” – Einstein interview with Alfred Werner, Liberal Judaism, Apr. – May 1949.

+5 # fhunter 2013-05-23 15:56

The Supreme Court by making Bush(43) President, destroyed this COUNTRY , by making corporations PEOPLE destroying the WORLD.
+1 # da gaf 2013-05-23 16:45

it is sad that man has lost his connection with “Mother Earth”- Indian Weaver had it right- people are raised and trained to be successful irregardless of what they have to do -just get more and more..never be satisfied..then “Greed King” takes over and few reach the top while many struggle to reach and the rest just somehow try to hang on… and where is the protector of this “Mother Earth”?..where is man’s love for his real MOTHER? this Earth is our real host- we are just the visitors..and the visitors are mostly asleep to the real essential things in this miracle of being alive!- to be in synch with live as all of the rest of beings in nature- but no mankind has become the big cancer of this beautiful green planet..killing it in every way!
It is so sad that this so-called civilization has reached this low level of consciousness..”destroy the doesn’t matter we are getting richer and what?”…is this world now becoming a huge mad-house?
0 # nirmalandhas 2013-05-23 19:28

This is a supply side argument but what about the demand? Are you willing to live without oil? And how do you propose to do it? It is not like tobacco or asbestos. Life without oil is going to be impossible for anything like 90% of the human population. They will starve to death. What is your solution to their situation? This kind of simplistic blaming of the oil companies is not going to get anyone anywhere. They have no alternative and neither do the politicians or policymakers. It is those of us who can see what lies ahead who must link up across the globe (NOT JUST AMERICANS WITHIN AND FOR AMERICA) to form a global network through which we can collectively perceive pathways to the future that none of us can perceive on our own. We may do this through Virtual Survival Platforms (VSPs) and implement what we perceive on Geographical Survival Platforms (GSPs) all over the planet wherever we are and these GSPs can spread the know how to those who want it thereby generating sustainable or Survival Communities (SUSKIES) all around them. No government is going to do this and this is natural because the evolutionary survival of ano species has ever been dictated by a government. Evolution has always come about through the action of individual members of species. So do not wait for the government or big oil to come to your assistance. They will not because they cannot. 


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