Thursday, June 19, 2008

Getting the lead out

I've been stewing about oil companies' greed for months, and it's got very little to do with gasoline prices *.

Where they can get away with it, they're still poisoning people with leaded gasoline. Okay, the United States still allows lead for specialized uses: planes **, boats and off-road vehicles, but I thought the world had dumped that poison decades ago. We've known about it since the 1920's.

Then I saw a throw-away line in a Philippine Inquirer story on another subject. 'That can't be true,” I thought. I was appalled by what came up after a little web-surfing.

Big oil happily trades lives for profits wherever and however it's allowed. The Australian LEAD Group tries to track countries that still allow lead additives, but there's a big difference between having restrictions and enforcing them.

According to an article in BusinessWorld (Philippines) "Figures from the World Wide Survey of Motor Gasoline Quality showed that the levels of lead added to fuel in third world countries were consistently twice as high as those added to the fuel in Western countries."

Since my search was in English, the Philippines popped up more than other countries. I, for one, suspect their experience applies to other places where big money meets weak governance.

Lives are cheap and gas is dear. Since leaded fuel is more efficient, it's hard to see any government stepping up enforcement at this time.

So I'm angry, and helpless.

* Their dirty little secret? Whether we've reached the 'tipping point' or not, they don't really want to increase production

** If you know any bat-shit crazy pilots, well, there you are.

*** One interesting item: because our gas comes from Singapore, Saipan stations were pumping lead into the 1980's.


Saipan Writer said...

good post.

I feel your frustration. It is outrageous. Just more disregard for the planet we live on and our own pathetic lives.

bigsoxfan said...

I'm puzzled by the price variations between San Diego and TJ. $4.50 in SD and 2.50 in Tijuanna. Of course, they don't have AS many gunfights in San Diego, but for a ten mile difference?

KAP said...

The Mexican government subsidizes prices because it doesn't want another revolution. I read that somebody in SE Asia, Malaysia I think, won't let stations fill cars with foreign license plates.

We tax gas but subsidize at the other end with depletion allowances and such. I've tried several times to figure out the "true" cost of different forms of energy. All I get is a headache. Our bizarre and Byzantine tax code distorts markets so much it's anybody's guess.