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Fossil fuel industry’s coercive and even violent nature

KROLL | Our Hand in the Resource Curse

Nigeria is home to a similar iteration of the resource curse. Although oil and gas monies currently account for roughly 65 percent of Nigeria’s gross government revenue, the World Bank has reported that 80 percent of these earnings are held by 1 percent of the nation’s population. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the story of Nigeria’s economic and political misdoings features Royal Dutch Shell, the British-Dutch oil and gas company, rather prominently.

Shell first took hold of Nigerian assets in the early 20th century, and sent its first Nigerian oil shipment in 1958. Expanding their Nigerian holdings over the coming years, Shell eventually came to share stakes alongside France, Italy and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation by the 1970s.

In the nineties, Shell’s activity came under international scrutiny. Responding to a non-violent 1990 protest at one of their Ogoniland facilities in the Niger Delta, Nigerian nationalized military forces killed at least 80 people and set fire to a nearby village.

Despite this clear demonstration of the Nigerian military’s preferred tactics, Shell doubled down on their partnership. The coming decade saw their continued cooperation with the Nigerian dictatorship and state military, which enabled the murder of hundreds of Nigerian citizens. Shell got its political control, and made good on their initial investments. Though they can’t be blamed for all Nigerian corruption, they should certainly be held accountable for the murders that they facilitated, and the corrupt behavior that they enabled.

Though the details of our endowment’s investment are not disclosed, 4-6 percent of most university endowments are invested in the fossil fuel (oil and gas) industries. Our endowment clocks in at roughly $7.2 billion. If we’re in the 4-6 percent range, we would have between roughly $300 million and $400 million invested in companies like Exxon, BP and Royal Dutch Shell. In fact, Cornell Engineering and Royal Dutch Shell have a long-standing corporate partnership.

Aside from the obviously problematic nature of these firms’ contribution to climate change, oil and gas companies’ nefarious political acts abroad shouldn’t be ignored. As calls for fossil fuel divestment likely proliferate in the coming months, we should be clear-eyed about the fossil fuel industry’s coercive and even violent nature.

Julian Kroll is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected] 

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