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FEATURE Gasoline Morality? Not a Chance. BY JEFFREY ST. CLAIR Its the old familiar problem,. You’re driving along the interstate and you have to pull off some time in the next twenty miles for gas. Each exit advertises a couple of oil companies. Is there one, you ask your self just marginally less vicious than the others? Is there a moral choice to be made here, or are they all equally bad? Here a traveler’s’ advisory. EXXON Start with the ones you wouldn’t dream of patronizing. Exxon is the biggest and one of the foulest, its lineage stretching directly back to the old bandit, John D. Rockefeller. He spawned Exxon, formerly Standard Oil of New Jersey; Chevron, formerly Standard Oil of California; Mobil, formerly Standard Oil of New York; and Amoco, formerly Standard Oil of Indiana. Standard Oil of New Jersey was the core of the Rockefeller oil empire. Exxon is the world’s largest oil company and the second largest company in the world, after General Motors, with more than $150 billion in annual sales. In its treatment of the environment, of its workers, and customers, Exxon operates as if it was immune from any regulatory constraint. Most notoriously, in 1989 its tanker the Exxon Valdez discharged 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, after running aground on Bligh Reef. Perhaps the company’s most brazen effrontery in the affair was its attempt to manipulate a federal jury to avoid paying $5 billion in punitive damages to Alaska’s fishing industry. Exxon’s air pollution record from its refineries is the worst in the business, with thousands of citations. Moreover, it refuses to dis close the toxic chemicals used at its refineries outside the U.S., and at many sites inside the country. In fact, in 1992, the EPA tried to fine Exxon $110,000 for not reporting the release of toxic chemicals at its Bay town, Texas re finery. Dan Quayle’s Competitiveness Council intervened on Exxon’s behalf and squashed the puny fine. Exxon has repeatedly falsified advertising claims on its high octane fuels and has been ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to send letters to its credit card holders retracting the claims. The company was convicted in 1992 of defrauding the Defense Department when it falsified records in order to help its oil additives qualify for military contracts. Exxon agreed to pay $3.8 million in fines. It’s a dangerous company to work for. In a four year period, from 1988 to 1992, OSHA issued forty-one citations against Exxon that it termed serious and willful violations of safety rules. Exxon is making huge investments in developing nations. One particularly ugly project is in eastern Venezuela, where Exxon has joined with PDVSA, the Venezuelan national oil company, to develop a $3 billion natural gas reserve deep in the rainforest. TEXACO Here’s the Texaco sign. But you may not want to stop there either. In a recent edition of Counterpunch, we described the company’s illegal shipments to Mussolini and Hitler. Texaco’s racist attitude to its minority employees forced the company to settle a class action suit for a record $176 million. The company is deeply involved in Indonesia and Siberia, and was one of the big cheerleaders of the Gulf War because 60 percent of its refinery output depended on Saudi and Kuwaiti crude oil. Texaco’s enormous 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara channel off the California coastline did have the incidental effect of suspending new leasing and explorations off the California coast, and of prompt ing Congressional investigations of the entire oil industry. The com pany’s supposedly cleaner fuels have caused health problems. SHELL Texaco is now merging its U.S. refining and sales with Shell, the U.S. subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell Group, the world’s second largest oil company. The most recent blot on Shell’s copybook was its successful urging of the Nigerian government to deal summarily with Ken THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 FEBRUARY 28, 1997