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Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum


With summer winding down, it’s hard not to spend every waking (and maybe non-waking) minute outside. That means a whole lot of hikes, cookouts and outdoor fun. You’ve got a handle on green camping hacks and eco-friendly picnic essentials — now let’s zoom in on beverage containers.

Beverages are essential when it comes to outdoor soirees. When picking them out at the store, you’re faced with a few options: plastic bottles, glass bottles or aluminum cans. What to choose? The decision can be daunting for environmentalists. We’re here to give you the lowdown on which of these receptacles gets the planet’s stamp of approval.

Step 1: How They’re Made

We see beverage containers constantly — lining the shelves of the grocery store, filling coolers at BBQs, quenching a beachgoer’s thirst. Just how did they get there?


Plastic manufacturing starts off with oil and natural gas. These raw materials are converted into smaller pieces called monomers, and are then chemically bonded together to create long chains, known as polymers. These polymers are the plastic you see in the form of water bottles, food packaging and much more.

To get to the crude oil and natural gas needed to produce plastics, we must head for the earth’s crust. However, oil and natural gas is buried beneath layers of bedrock — that’s where drilling comes in. Drilling for oil in our pristine oceans and fracking for natural gas in America’s West is destroying our environment.


Liquefied sand, soda ash (naturally occurring sodium carbonate), limestone, recycled glass and various additives make up the glass bottles we use to hold our beverages.

Using limestone prevents glass from weathering and is thus a valuable raw material for glass containers. The sedimentary rock is typically mined from a quarry — either above or below ground. In terms of the environment, limestone mining may contaminate water and contribute to noise pollution. Limestone mining can also destroy habitat for animals who live in their cave ecosystem and can form a permanent scar on the landscape.

It’s safe to say that the raw materials that go into making glass bottles are widely available in the U.S.


New aluminum cans are almost always made from bauxite, a mineral that the U.S. gets from mines in countries like Guinea and Australia. The mining of bauxite is harsh on the planet — raw bauxite is discovered by way of open-pit mining, essentially scraping a pit into the landscape and leaving environmental destruction behind. Bauxite mining contributes to habitat loss and water contamination, as well as a slew of other negative environmental impacts, like increased erosion.

Step 2: Transport

When getting from here to there, each container has a different footprint.


The environmental cost of transporting plastic bottles can exceed even those of creating the plastic bottle in the first place. This isn’t always the case — it depends on the distance of transport — but it’s a throttling idea.

For short distances, plastic bottles have a low transportation footprint. They pack tightly — companies are definitely responding to greener consumers and are keeping sustainability in mind when designing the shapes of their bottles. They’re also very lightweight, meaning less fuel is consumed during shipping.


There’s one big, undeniable eco-unfriendly aspect of glass bottles — they’re heavy. The transportation of glass bottles requires significantly more energy than their lightweight counterparts. Glass is fragile, too, so they can’t be packed into a truck as tightly as aluminum and plastic can.


Americans love cans because they are small, lightweight and airtight. Turns out, the planet does, too. Their size means they save fuel — more cans can fit into a smaller space and their light weight means less gas to get them from point A to point B. Because aluminum isn’t particularly fragile, cans use less cardboard packaging when transported as well, meaning more room for more cans.

Step 3: Where They End Up

Empty — now what? Each of these containers is recyclable. Here’s how they match up.


The recycling rate of plastics is actually quite low — in 2014, only 9.5 percent of plastic material generated in the U.S. was recycled. The rest was combusted for energy or sent to a landfill where its fate is uncertain — it can either find its way out and pollute our planet or sit there for up to 500 years before finally decomposing.


Glass bottles are 100 percent recyclable and an estimated 80 percent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles. Once you toss your glass bottle in the recycling bin, manufacturers can have it back onto the shelves in a month. Plus, using recycled glass when making new glass bottles reduces the manufacturer’s carbon footprint — furnaces may run at lower temperatures when recycled glass is used because it is already melted down to the right consistency.


Like glass, aluminum cans are completely recyclable and are commonly recycled worldwide as part of municipal recycling programs. Aluminum cans can be recycled repeatedly with no limit.

In her book, The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard notes that we are currently recycling only 45 percent of cans. That calls for a lot of pit mining for bauxite to make new material. According to Leonard, more than a trillion aluminum cans have been trashed in landfills since 1972, when such records began.

And the Winner Is…

If they are made from 100 percent recycled material, aluminum cans should be your top choice when shopping for picnic beverages. Their low transportation footprint and ease of recyclability make them a winner.

However, the extraction of raw bauxite is detrimental to the planet. New aluminum cans are not eco-friendly.

Glass should be your pick if recycled cans are not an option. Glass bottles are made from relatively innocuous raw materials and is, like aluminum cans, completely recyclable. Their bulky size and transportation footprint is their downfall.

Plastic does have a small carbon footprint when it comes to transportation, but it’s tough to ignore the giant carbon footprint when it comes to extraction. Plus, the plastic that doesn’t end up in a recycling bin can be a huge pollutant in our environment, killing wildlife and contaminating ecosystems. With using plastic, the planet is ravaged.

Feature images courtesy of Shutterstock

Read More:
How Many Times Can That Be Recycled?
Which Is Better? Plastic vs. Glass Food Storage Containers
The Verdict Is In: Keep the Bottle Caps On

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Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.

Latest posts by Lauren Murphy (see all)

Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum – August 11, 2017
Is Starbucks Doing Enough to Recycle Its Cups? – July 18, 2017
6 Simple Swaps for a Green 4th of July  – June 30, 2017


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Beverage Container Showdown: Plastic vs. Glass vs. Aluminum

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Scientists May Have Finally Found a Way to Stop Ebola

Mother Jones

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Scientists have developed a vaccine that could successfully prevent the spread of Ebola, according to a study published Thursday in The Lancet. The study was conducted in response to the West African Ebola crisis—the largest and deadliest recorded Ebola outbreak to date—and is the first to report a promising solution for the deadly virus.

Since December 2013, Ebola—a highly infectious virus that causes severe hemorrhagic fevers and has a 50 percent fatality rate—has killed over 11,300 people in West Africa. Considered a global health crisis, the outbreak took nearly two years to control and was complicated by a lack of international funding and widespread fear and mistrust of doctors among African locals. Though the virus was discovered in 1976, early attempts to develop vaccines stalled in the absence of financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies. Until 2014, Ebola outbreaks were rare and controlled relatively quickly.

“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the World Health Organization’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, and a lead author of the study, in a press release accompanying the study.

Amid the Ebola crisis, researchers from the WHO and more than a dozen other international partners, tested the new vaccine on 5,937 at-risk individuals in Guinea and found it was 100 percent effective when administered soon after exposure. None of the roughly 3,900 people vaccinated within three weeks of Ebola exposure ended up catching the virus 10 or more days after the vaccination. (Researchers discounted any individuals who got Ebola within 10 days—the typical incubation period for the virus—under the assumption that they had already contracted it prior to vaccination.) The vaccine appears to be less effective the longer the researches waited after an exposure: Of the roughly 2,000 people vaccinated more than three weeks after an exposure, 16 got Ebola.

To find people at risk of getting Ebola, researchers used a unique method, “ring vaccination,” inspired by the strategy used to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. Each time a new Ebola case was confirmed, researchers traced all the people the patient had come in direct contact with, as well as the people who had come in contact with those people within the previous three weeks. The clusters, or “rings,” were then randomly assigned to either immediate or delayed vaccinations. After noticing positive results in the first few months, the researchers stopped the delayed vaccinations altogether. Eventually, the researchers began vaccinating children, which was also 100 percent effective.

The “ring vaccination” technique additionally had a positive impact on public health: Communities of those who were vaccinated were also less likely to get sick. That proved crucial not only in studying the vaccine, but also in quashing the outbreak itself.

The team still needs to do more research on the safety of the vaccine in children and other vulnerable populations, such as people with HIV. Other questions also remain about how long the protective effects of a single vaccination can last and whether it can be modified to reduce side effects without compromising efficacy.

In the meantime, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, a global health partnership that includes the WHO, gave $5 million to pharmaceutical giant Merck in January to procure the vaccine after its approval. Merck also committed to making 300,000 doses of the vaccine available, should an emergency arise in the interim.

“Ebola left a devastating legacy in our country,” Dr KeÏta Sakoba, coordinator of the Ebola response in Guinea, said in the press release. “We are proud that we have been able to contribute to developing a vaccine that will prevent other nations from enduring what we endured.”

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A handful of the world’s coral reefs are actually thriving

A handful of the world’s coral reefs are actually thriving

By on Jun 16, 2016Share

Coral reefs seem to be having a bad century, with global bleaching events and the Great Barrier Reef fading away before our eyes.

But there’s a bright spot, folks! Actually, there are 15 of them, according to a new study published in Nature.

A group of marine researchers has identified places where reef ecosystems are thriving despite environmental and human pressures. These “bright spots” are rays of hope for future conservation efforts, which may use them to apply better practices to less lucky places.

The study drew data from 2,500 reefs in 46 countries. The 15 reefs with unexpectedly robust fish populations were not necessarily in the most remote areas with low fishing activity. In fact, most of them included “localities where human populations and use of ecosystem resources is high,” the study notes. They are also typically found in the Pacific Ocean, in places like the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and parts of Indonesia.

The bright spots, it turns out, tend to benefit from responsible local management and traditional customs. For example, on Papua New Guinea’s Karkar Island, locals have the right to prevent outsiders from fishing in their particular plot of ocean. They also practice a rotational fishing system where, as in farming, they leave off fishing a part of the reef to allow populations to recover.

On the flip side are the 35 “dark spots” the study identified, where fish stocks aren’t faring too well. These are places like Hawaii and Australia where locals tend to have greater access to fishing technologies — such as nets and freezers for stockpiling fish — that aid and abet intensive exploitation. Dark spots also were more likely to be suffering from recent environmental shocks, like bleaching.

Experts hope to use the bright spots as blueprints for more creative conservation efforts.

“We believe that the bright spots offer hope and some solutions that can be applied more broadly across the world’s coral reefs,” says Josh Cinner, the lead author on the study. “Specifically, investments that foster local involvement and provide people with ownership rights can allow people to develop creative solutions that help defy expectations of reef fisheries depletion.”


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Best Annual Flowers that Bloom All Season

The bright and diverse colors of annual flowers are a main attraction in a summer garden. You can get the most out of their showy blooms by planting the right varieties and giving them the care they need.

Annuals are plants that grow for one season and die over winter. You can buy annuals as bedding plants in the spring. Many of them will also do well grown directly from seed. A fertile soil rich in organic matter is the best for annual flowers. Keep them evenly moist throughout the growing season for consistent flowering.

Try some of these long-lasting annual flowers for an abundant display throughout the summer.

Geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum)

Many different types of geraniums exist, although the easiest to care for are known as zonal geraniums. They grow 12 to 30 inches tall and make attractive clusters of flowers in a variety of colors, including white, pink, salmon, red and orange. Trim off the long blossom heads once theyre finished to encourage more buds.

Geraniums are more drought-tolerant than some annual flowers and prefer full sun. They can also be taken indoors in winter and kept as houseplants.

Pink Geranium

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Sweet alyssum earns its name for a reason. Patches of alyssum will fill your garden with a gentle perfume. It grows 3 to 6 inches tall and creates a dense groundcover of small flower spikes. The colors range in shades of white, pink, salmon and purple. Plant in a sunny or partially shaded location.

They can be seeded directly in the ground in spring after the risk of frost, or bought as seedlings. They will also often self-seed and come up again the following year, so make sure you have them in an area you like.

Marigold (Tagetes spp.)

Marigolds come in a variety of sizes, from 4 inch tall plants up to 5 foot giants. Their single or double flowers are bright orange, yellow or bicolored. If the flowers are kept wet for too long, they may start to rot. Its best to grow them in hot areas with full sun to prevent standing water on the blossoms.

The flowers are eatable and can be used as a spicy addition to salads or other dishes. When cooked with rice, the petals provide a nice color.


Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)

Petunias are started easily from seed, or stores carry a wide selection of seedlings. Their distinctive trumpet-shaped flowers are available in almost any color from yellow to red to black, with many multicolored varieties. You can also find different growth habits and sizes for petunias, including small, upright plants and well as assorted trailing types for hanging baskets.

Petunias are fairly drought-tolerant and can handle full sun to partial shade. Due to the profuse blooms, they benefit from deadheading and removing the spent blossoms to encourage new buds. Pruning the foliage back in mid-summer can help keep them compact.

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Zinnias bloom in an array of colors, including red, yellow, orange, pink, white and multicolored. Their large blossoms are carried on upright stems from 6 to 30 inches tall and make a great cut flower. Plant in a sunny location. You can buy seedlings from a store, although zinnias dislike being transplanted. They will often grow better if you seed them directly in the soil.


Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

The large, daisy-like flowers of cosmos come in shades of white, pink and orange. They also have a delicate scent, which is often stronger in the evening. Plants reach 18 to 60 inches tall, so they can be used in the middle or back of a flower bed to provide height. Cosmos is a good cut flower and the blossoms often attract birds, bees and butterflies.

Fuchsia (Fuchsia hybrida)

Fuchsia is a showy, trailing annual thats great for hanging baskets. Their exotic flowers come in multiple combinations of white, red, pink and purple. Fuchsias do best in shady conditions and will produce fewer flowers when overheated. Deadhead the older blooms to promote new buds.

Fuchsia Hanging Basket

Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)

Lobelia has delicate white, blue or pink blossoms that can start early in the summer and last until frost. Most varieties grow from 4 to 8 inches tall. Lobelia prefers sunny areas, but will tolerate partial shade. The plants stay nicely compact and do well in containers and window boxes as well as in flower beds.

Impatiens (Impatiens spp.)

Impatiens are one of the best annuals for shade. Their unique flowers and foliage can give your garden a tropical look. Two main types are available. Impatiens walleriana is a shorter variety, growing from 6 to 16 inches high. Impatiens hawkeri is also known as the New Guinea impatiens, which can grow up to 4 feet.

The New Guinea types are more resistant to impatiens downy mildew than the walleriana species. If you have a particularly damp location that may promote mildew, the New Guinea impatiens will be a better choice.



You have many different types of begonias to choose from, although some of them are better known for their foliage color rather than their flowers. All begonias prefer partial or full shade.

The two showiest blooming varieties of begonia are:

Wax Begonia (Begonia semperflorens) A shorter variety, 8 to 12 inches tall. These look especially good in large plantings where you can appreciate their shiny, succulent-like leaves and long-lived flowers. Bloom in white, pink and dark red. Good companions for impatiens.
Tuberous Begonia (Begonia tuberhybridacultorum) Grow up to 24 inches tall. The blossoms are much larger than the wax begonia, coming in a rainbow of bright colors. Trailing tuberous begonias are also available and make gorgeous additions to hanging baskets.

Tuberous Begonias

How to Create a Wildflower Garden
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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Best Annual Flowers that Bloom All Season

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Elizabeth Warren Challenges Chris Christie for the Science Behind His Ebola Quarantine

Mother Jones

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is demanding Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) reveal the science behind his controversial decision to place all health care workers returning back from Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone to be placed under a mandatory quarantine. Spoiler alert: the science does not exist.

“He should bring out his scientists who are advising him on that, because we know that we want to be led by science,” Warren said Tuesday during an appearance on CBS’s This Morning.

“That’s what’s going to keep people safe,” she added. “Science, not politics.”

Warren, who was promoting her book A Fighting Chance, was responding to a question about Christie’s earlier comments in which he defended the mandatory quarantine against claims the policy is draconian.

“I don’t think it’s draconian,” Christie said on the Today show. “The members of the American public believe it is common sense, and we are not moving an inch. Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change.”

Warren’s criticism joins a widening chorus of politicians–both on the right and left–and health officials who have slammed Christie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) for placing involuntary quarantines in their respective states over the weekend after first Ebola outbreak in New York City last Thursday surfaced.

Both governors have been accused of playing politics at the expense of basic human rights–Christie hoping to recall the image of an unapologetic, bipartisan leader in times of crisis (a la Sandy); Cuomo hoping to exert any level of control.

On Monday, in light of the newly implemented quarantines, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention unveiled a new set of federal guidelines for local governments to adopt.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also released a statement praising medical officials as “exceptional people.” Alluding to Christie and Cuomo’s policies, Ban also admonished against “restrictions that are not based on science.”

(h/t Mediate)

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Elizabeth Warren Challenges Chris Christie for the Science Behind His Ebola Quarantine

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An American Doctor in Sierra Leone Explains How to Fight Ebola

Mother Jones

With Ebola’s arrival in the United States, some health care workers are questioning how prepared their state-of-the-art hospitals are for the disease. Despite these problems, and some serious missteps in Dallas that led to the infection of two nurses, it’s unlikely that there will be a widespread outbreak here.

More MoJo coverage of the Ebola crisis.

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Liberia Says It’s Going to Need a Lot More Body Bags

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But in the Ebola-ravaged countries of West Africa, where the disease has infected more than 9,900 people and killed more than 4,800, health workers are facing a much more daunting task. They aren’t simply adapting an existing health care system to deal with the crisis—in many ways, they actually have to build one from the ground up.

Sierra Leone, which has a population of 6 million, only recently emerged from a 10-year civil war and has been rebuilding ever since. From 2009 to 2013, the country spent just $96 per person on health care, according to the World Bank. (The United States spent $8,895 per person during the same period.) So when the virus struck in March, a health system that hardly existed to begin with was stretched to the point of collapse.

Dan Kelly, an American doctor with the University of California, San Francisco, has been working in Sierra Leone for eight years at a health organization called Wellbody Alliance that he co-founded. And he’s been fighting Ebola there since shortly after the start of the outbreak. In an interview with Indre Viskontas on this week’s Inquiring Minds podcast, he said that the first order of business in fighting the disease has been the creation of a “pseudo health care system” with support from international aid groups and agencies like the World Health Organization.

But that new system has to be managed by skilled health care workers—often from developed countries—and Kelly says there simply isn’t enough manpower to go around.

“The crux of this crisis is the human resource issue and staffing,” Kelly explained from Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. “We don’t have enough people on the ground here to mentor Sierra Leoneans to show them leadership, to accompany them on the way forward, to even provide our own expertise to manage Ebola patients and staff these treatment units.”

Kelly says that as the disease has overwhelmed efforts to control it, doctors and other health workers have been reluctant to come to West Africa to help out. As the outbreak gives way to panic, he says, some worry that border closings or other obstacles could leave them stranded. With so many cases in the region today, would-be volunteers are also fearful of being infected themselves. (On Thursday, several days after Kelly spoke to Inquiring Minds, Craig Spencer, an American doctor who had been working with Ebola patients in Guinea, was diagnosed with the disease after returning to New York.)

Kelly’s organization is teaming up with Partners In Health, an NGO that provides health care to poor people around the world, to recruit medical professionals who are willing to accept the risks of treating Ebola patients in West Africa. Potential volunteers can sign up on the recruitment page of the Partners In Health website. After an interview and training with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are sent to the Kono District of Sierra Leone or Grande Gedeh County in Liberia to help fight the disease.

“We’ve thought through, carefully, a lot of the challenges in getting staff,” Kelly says. “It’s not like I’m just sitting here saying, ‘Oh, we need staff, we need boots on the ground, we need technical expertise, but I have no idea how you’re going to get there.’ We know, it’s just that other people need to know as well.”

You can listen to the full interview with Kelly below (starting at roughly 2:40).


An American Doctor in Sierra Leone Explains How to Fight Ebola

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Dot Earth Blog: Dynamic Planet: Under the Volcano in Papua New Guinea

Three views of a violent volcanic eruption in Papua New Guinea. Read original article –  Dot Earth Blog: Dynamic Planet: Under the Volcano in Papua New Guinea ; ; ;

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Dot Earth Blog: Dynamic Planet: Under the Volcano in Papua New Guinea

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Bribes, Favors, and a Billion-Dollar Yacht: Inside the Crazy World of the Men Who Do Oil Companies’ Dirty Work

Mother Jones

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When big oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron set their sights on a prime new oil reserve in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, the first phone call they make usually isn’t to the government office putting it up for sale. Instead, they ring up one of their contacts in a small, elite group of so-called “fixers,” a shady cabal of a few dozen well-connected billionaires who hold the strings on the market for the world’s most valuable commodity. The fixer gets a fat fee and a straightforward assignment: Do whatever you need to do to get us those oil rights.

Unlike the US, where oil rights are held by individual property owners and leased to mining companies, in most developing nations oil rights are held by the government, and getting them means having a personal relationship with the right ministers—and knowing how to grease their palms. Since the mid-1900s, oil companies have relied on fixers to do their dirty work, crisscrossing the globe with a Rolodex stacked with the calling cards of corrupt heads of state. In the end, we get cheap oil, oil companies get plausible deniability, and the leaders of some of the world’s most oppressive regimes get astronomically rich.

Ken Silverstein is a veteran journalist who has spent the last several years finagling his way into the traditionally hyper-reclusive world of oil fixers, gaining unprecedented access to many key players and amassing a portfolio of outrageous tales of bribery, exploitation, and obscene wealth. His book, The Secret World of Oil, hit shelves yesterday, and I spoke to him about how US companies continue to skirt anti-bribery laws in the high-stakes pursuit of oil.

Climate Desk: The oil companies that are using fixers, these are the companies that people are familiar with—Exxon, Chevron?

Ken Silverstein: In all the big oil companies, it would be rare for them never to use fixers in their deals. The bigger firms like Exxon have a lot of power and local knowledge and may handle this sort of thing on their own. But even Exxon, for part of the negotiations, is going to rely on a fixer. One of the reasons is that it’s a dicey game. It’s not always flat-out bribery, although in the old days it really was. The old model was that let’s say you were a company and you wanted a concession in Nigeria. Well, you’d go to Fixer A and give Fixer A, say, a million dollars, and Fixer A would go to his friends in the Nigerian government and wire half a million dollars into a few Swiss bank accounts—or just, you know, a suitcase full of cash. That was it. Fixer A kept his half million, the government officials had their half million, and the company got its oil concession. Pretty simple, pretty straightforward.

Well, that’s changed a lot, partly because the US and Europe have outlawed bribery. So it’s gotten dicier. There’s a senior Halliburton official who’s currently in jail, who was implicated in a massive bribery scandal that helped Halliburton win a multimillion dollar stake in Nigeria. Typically, though, the companies want one or two degrees of separation—you’re not going to have your senior vice president meeting with a government official who you need to pay off. You want an intermediary, a fixer who can handle that, who, if anything goes wrong, you can disown all knowledge of and the fixer gets dumped and blamed.

Ken Silverstein Courtesy Verso Books

CD: Is any of this legal, what the fixers are doing? It seems like it’s in a strange grey area.

KS: It’s illegal if you get caught. But you’d rarely be so stupid now as to wire money into an official’s account, you don’t do it that way. Here’s a real example from what Exxon did in Equatorial Guinea, one of the world’s worst dictatorships sitting on untold amounts of oil. In some places where there is no corruption, there’s closed-door bidding and whoever makes the best offer wins. In a place like Equatorial Guinea that’s not the way it works. It’s whoever figures out how to give the president and his inner circle the most money, gets the contract. And sometimes it may be flat-out bribes, but Exxon doesn’t want to do that. What did Exxon do? They wanted land to build their compound, and to develop their project. And where did they buy the land? “Well, the president owns some land and it would be perfect for us.” And so they just overpaid by an enormous amount of money, and it’s clearly just putting money in the president’s pocket.

CD: Here, in Texas or North Dakota or wherever, you have a private landowner who owns the mineral rights and can sell them to whoever they want. But in the countries you’re talking about oil is owned to start with by the government. Does that lend the process to the kind of corruption you’re talking about?

KS: It’s a very highly politicized process to get access to that oil, so yes it absolutely does lend itself to corruption. And it also lends itself to reinforcing the power of these regimes that frequently are dictatorships. I want to cite Ed Chow, a former Chevron executive. He said: “In Texas I can convince landowners to lease me their mineral rights. They get a royalty check every month and the companies leave a small footprint on their land. What’s not to love? There’s no equivalent in places like Nigeria or Angola or Kazakhstan. You get the land, but you don’t provide a lot of jobs, you may be destroying the environment, and most of the profit goes to international capital. The companies don’t have a strong case to sell to local communities, so they come to not only accept highly centralized government, but to crave it. A strongman president can make all the necessary decisions. It’s a lot easier to win support from the top than to build it from the bottom.”

That’s precisely the environment where fixers thrive.

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Bribes, Favors, and a Billion-Dollar Yacht: Inside the Crazy World of the Men Who Do Oil Companies’ Dirty Work

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Another week, another oil tanker hijacking

Another week, another oil tanker hijacking

Last week, we explained why piracy has shifted from Africa’s east coast to its west. In short: higher security near Somalia combined with a new strategy near Nigeria. In at least one hijacking, pirates sought a tanker’s cargo of oil instead of ransoms for crew members.

Or, rather, in at least two hijackings. From the AP:

A French-owned oil tanker missing off Ivory Coast with 17 sailors on board likely has been hijacked, an official with an international piracy watchdog said Monday, in what may be the latest attack by criminal gangs targeting the ships to steal their valuable cargo. Meanwhile, a sailor died in a similar attack Monday near Nigeria’s largest city.

Details remained scarce Monday about the fate of the ship, flagged in Luxembourg. The ship had been reported missing Sunday and officials believe it fell victim to the same pirates operating throughout the Gulf of Guinea, said Noel Choong, a spokesman for the International Maritime Bureau in Malaysia.


Pirates surrender to a U.S. Navy vessel near Somalia in 2011.

This is on top of two near misses.

The presumed attack Sunday comes amid a series of escalating attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, which follows the continent’s southward curve from Liberia to Gabon. On Monday, pirates attacked another oil tanker anchored off Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, shooting one of the crew members, Choong said. The sailor died while in transit to a local hospital, the maritime bureau later said, though offering no other details.

A security detail from the Nigerian navy shot back at the attackers, driving them away, the bureau said. Commodore Kabir Aliyu, a spokesman for Nigeria’s navy, declined to immediately comment about the attack.

In another attack Thursday off Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, pirates on several small boats assaulted another tanker. In a sign of how violent the attacks have grown, the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the tanker during the onslaught, which missed the ship, the maritime bureau said. The crew suffered no injuries in the attack and their ship escaped, though it sustained damage from the gunfire, the bureau said.

As we’ve mentioned before, some of the region’s oil is headed for America’s East Coast. When pirates plagued the coast of Somalia, corporations hired security teams and the U.S. Navy got involved. It would be very surprising if similar measures weren’t under discussion at Shell and Chevron at this very minute.


French tanker likely hijacked off Ivory Coast, Associated Press

Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.

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Another week, another oil tanker hijacking

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