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Petroleum Accidents in the Global South

Environmental Impacts of Transnational Corporations in the Global South

ISBN: 978-1-78756-035-2, eISBN: 978-1-78756-034-5

Publication date: 13 December 2018


Transnational corporation (TNC)-led oil investments have been widely encouraged as a mechanism for the development of the Global South. Even though the sector is characterized by major accidents, oil-based developmentalist narratives claim that such accidents are merely isolated incidents that can be administratively addressed, redressed behaviorally through education of certain individuals, or corrected through individually targeted post-event legislation. Adapting Harvey Molotch’s (1970) political economy methodology of “accident research”, this paper argues that such “accidents” are, in fact, routine in the entire value chain of the oil system dominated by, among others, military-backed TNCs which increasingly collaborate with national and local oil companies similarly wedded to the ideology of growth. Based on this analysis, existing policy focus on improving technology, instituting and enforcing more environmental regulations, and the pursuit of economic nationalism in the form of withdrawing from globalization are ineffective. In such a red-hot system, built on rapidly spinning wheels of accumulation, the pursuit of slow growth characterized by breaking the chains of monopoly and oligopoly, putting commonly generated rent to common uses, and freeing labor from regulations that rob it of its produce has more potency to address the enigma of petroleum accidents in the global south.




Many thanks to Professors Paul Cooney and William Sacher for detailed feedback on earlier drafts of the paper, for their relentless encouragement, and for their confidence in my analysis. The usual disclaimer applies.


Obeng-Odoom, F. (2018), "Petroleum Accidents in the Global South", Environmental Impacts of Transnational Corporations in the Global South (Research in Political Economy, Vol. 33), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 111-142.



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