By Kris FitzPatrick, Staff Editor
Many of us know the stories of oil-rich developing countries sacrificing environmental health for oil revenues. The term “resource curse” was coined because these countries paradoxically suffer from economic stagnation and corruption due, at least in part, to the effects of abundant oil, gas, or mineral resources.
A recent piece in the New Yorker by Patrick Radden Keefe tells the winding narrative of an eighteen-year-long case against Texaco (now Chevron) brought by a group of Ecuadoreans. The group claims Texaco polluted parts of the Oriente region during the twenty-three years that Texaco and other companies conducted drilling operations in the area. In February 2011, a local Ecuadorean judge found for the plaintiffs and ordered Chevron to pay $18 billion, the largest judgment ever in an environmental case. Chevron no longer has assets in Ecuador and has refused to pay.
The Ecuador case highlights the question of how multinational oil companies should be held accountable for past environmental damage. Keefe’s piece may leave the reader exhausted and frustrated, and perhaps questioning whether we should all complain so much about four-dollar gasoline.