EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – AUGUST 29, 2007
A VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS
The Problem With Big Green
By Rich Trzupek
When I wrote about the BP-Amoco controversy, as has been the case when I have been on the industry-side of an issue before, some people speculated that I had been paid by BP for my opinion. And that’s fine. Not true, but there are people who think solely in those terms and nobody’s going to change their mind.
Yet, for those who wonder why this kind of issue troubles me so, the answer is simple: because my dad was a steelworker.
Walter Trzupek worked at the mills in Northwest Indiana for over 30 years, sweating and straining to pay for the health and schooling of six rambunctious kids. He sacrificed a lot, and I saw it every time he dragged himself home in the morning after pulling a midnight shift, beat to hell, covered with the grime of the mills.
His is not a unique story. There are millions of men and women doing the same thing, every day, in the nation’s steel mills, food plants, automobile factories, refineries and hundreds of other places that produce not just a product, not just profit, but a living for the people who depend on them.
When I look at an issue like BP-Amoco, I don’t see a big oil company. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about how much money a multi-billion dollar conglomerate makes or doesn’t make. It’s not about the board room, it’s about the factory floor and all of those Walter Trzupeks out there, trying to make a living.
They are the people who wrestle with this monster that we have created called environmental regulation. It’s the plant engineer, the EHS specialist and the shift supervisor, who scratch their heads and try to figure out exactly how to comply with each and every part of the rules. It’s a maddening task. They want to do the right thing – they’re desperately trying to do the right thing – if only they could figure out what the right thing is.
Those are the people I work with, and I have enormous respect for them. They’re not cigar-smoking robber barons, gleefully polluting the world. They’re ordinary Joes and Josephines. If they smoke a cigar, it’s down at the local pub on dollar draft night.
When they manage to figure out the right thing, when they get through that dizzying maze of regulations and design a project that will comply with all of them, they should be applauded, not vilified. Yet, somehow, politicians like Rahm Emanuel and Mark Kirk can turned a blind eye to their efforts and say that complying with the rules isn’t good enough. And why isn’t it good enough? Because they work for Big Oil? What happened to equal application of the law?
We shouldn’t be nearly as concerned about Big Oil these days as we should be about Big Green. Who is Big Green? It’s the multi-million dollar environmental corporations that traffic in fear, hysteria and distortion. It’s the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club. These organizations have grown into monsters as large as many a corporation, and they are far more dangerous, for – as cases like BP’s clearly demonstrate – they are rarely put under the media’s microscope.
Does Big Green do some good? Sure. But the damage they do far outweighs that good. One can, and should, admire many a small, grass roots environmental group. We see them in our communities all the time, cleaning up the parks, removing debris from the creek, protecting green space. Those are wonderful things, the kind of activity that we used to call “conservation”.
Big Green is something different. Big Green is about much more than grass-roots conservation. Big Green operates huge propaganda factories, and their product is panic. Panic has enormous value. It’s a product that sells and ensures that donations keep rolling in.
Think about it. We have made enormous strides at cleaning up our air and waterways for over 35 years. Have you ever heard Big Green talk about those massive reductions? Have they ever taken a moment to say: “good job everybody, look at all the progress we’ve made together!” They can’t say that. They won’t say that. It would devalue their product too much. Everyone must be kept in a constant state of fear.
That’s all the BP project is about. In reality, nobody’s life is in danger. Nobody’s drinking water is threatened. Hell, last Thursday the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District discharged over 1.6 million pounds of solids and ammonia into Lake Michigan, based on their own data, and Big Green didn’t say a word. They shouldn’t have – for it’s really no big deal – but doesn’t that make you wonder why they attack the BP project so vicously? BP discharges the same stuff, but their couple thousand pounds a day is somehow “dangerous”.
There would be no profit for Big Green in raising the alarm bell over a massive discharge that was ultimately fueled by mother nature. To do so would make Big Green look silly. But there’s enormous profit to made out of attacking BP. So they crank up the assembly line and churn out the panic as fast as they can make it, whenever BP is mentioned.
And, in the end, the people who get hurt the most are all the men and women who work their butts off to try to make a living and comply with the law while they do it.
I see my father in everyone of them, and I think to myself: Big Green, you owe a lot of people one hell of an apology.