Shell Holland's president, Peter de Wit, denied all the charges and insisted that the company applied "global standards" to its operations around the world. He argued that Shell had provided thousands of well-paid jobs, brought know-how, education and technology and had launched numerous community projects in the west African nation.
"We consider that Shell is doing a good job often under difficult circumstances," he said.
He was backed by Ian Craig, Shell's head of exploration for sub-Saharan African, who argued that the company could not be held solely responsible for damage to the environment caused by oil extraction in the oil-rich region. "We do bear some responsibility, but we cannot bear it entirely," Craig told the Dutch parliamentDutch MPs.
But Shell's operations in Nigeria will come under fire again in the coming weeks. The UN Environment Programme, using money from Shell, has spent four years investigating and assessing thousands of oil spills in Ogoniland, the small oil-rich region of the Niger Delta where the company was active until forced out over pollution by Ogoni leaders including Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was hanged by the Nigerian military regime in 1995.
The UN report will not say who caused the spills but will confirm that large areas of land remain polluted, drinking water wells are still highly toxic and many of the fishing creeks are unproductive.
Shell Nigeria argues that 90% of the pollution is caused by sabotage by local people but this will further inflame Nigerian and foreign environmentalists who accuse the company of being in league with the Nigerian government, falsifying records of spills and acting as an unaccountable parallel state.
Last year in New York the families of the nine Ogoni activists who were hanged by the Nigerian military government in 1995 alleged that Shell had conspired with the government to capture and hang the men, and had worked with the army to bring about killings and torture of Ogoni protesters. The company denied the charges but settled out of court and agreed to pay £15m as a humanitarian gesture.
Sir, – Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte’s response to Fintan O’Toole’s article (August 16th) on our offshore licensing terms and his intention to issue new licences under the current licensing terms is disingenuous in the extreme (Opinion, August 18th).
But perhaps big oil’s biggest success was diminishing the political will to implement appropriate regulation. Even after the international community adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, the fossil-fuel industry managed to block meaningful progress — to the point that, if serious action is not taken soon, the entire process could unravel.
In Europe, Royal Dutch Shell’s lobbying so diluted the EU’s efforts that there are now no binding targets for renewables or energy efficiency for individual countries. The company even sent a letter to the European Commission’s president claiming that “gas is good for Europe.” Shell and other oil companies are now promising to work as “advisers” to national governments on how to deal with climate change.