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Government Sanctioned Pollution of Our Water and Air
Can Toxic Waste Purify Air?
By Megan Maloy

According to President Bush and his Administration, it is not only possible, but also cost effective to use toxic waste to help purify the air we breathe.

Toxic Turned Tonic?
What magical substance is considered both toxic waste and environmentally friendly? Take a look around; it exists right in your own garage. This "magical" substance is methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE. MTBE is an oxygenate, which supposedly helps reduce carbon dioxide and ozone levels1 emitted from vehicles.

Before its utilization as a benefit to the environment in 1979,2 MTBE, an unwanted byproduct of gasoline refining, was treated as toxic waste. Oil companies paid a pretty penny to dispose of the massive quantities of the manufactured MTBE. It was then decided that MTBE could be used in gasoline, therefore providing a new and profitable way to dispose of the toxic waste. Under the guise of protecting the environment, between the years of 1986 and 1991, oil companies were adding an average of 74,450 barrels of MTBE to gasoline everyday.3 Had the top decision makers in oil companies suddenly metamorphosed into environmentalists?

Bad News for Water Drinkers
The public was unaware of the health risks involved with using MTBE. Underground gasoline storage tanks are very susceptible to leaks; the vapors from MTBE are very dangerous and the gasoline that leaks from the storage tanks pollutes our groundwater, which is a major source of the US water supply. Once MTBE contaminates soil or water, it accelerates the contamination of other dangerous substances contained in gasoline, such as benzene, which is a known carcinogen. In 1995, MTBE was classified as a probable carcinogen in humans.

Innocent Accomplice?
In the early 80's, an inside joke at Shell was that MTBE is an acronym for "Most Things Biodegrade Easier." Other "clever" acronyms began to circulate, including "Menace Threatening Our Bountiful Environment," or "Major Threat to Better Earnings" (in reference to recent lawsuits).3 Do these statements sound like the jokes of innocent companies following government regulations?

These oil companies knew the detrimental health effects that were involved with MTBE, but continued to use it and neglected to warn the public because it was more profitable to ignore the threat.

Fraudulent Defense
Multiple lawsuits against oil companies that use MTBE have occurred due to the contamination of water supplies. Thirty-five states have been affected by MTBE induced water pollution.
Their defense: oil company representatives demand that they should not be held accountable for the devastation that MTBE has caused in over half of America's states. They have shifted the blame to the government, claiming that through the Clean Air Act of 1990, they were forced to add MTBE to gasoline.3

It is interesting to note that oil companies began to lobby for the utilization of MTBE in the 1980's, years before federally mandated to do so.

The Expense of Profit
With the wave of lawsuits emerging, oil companies find themselves paying to clean up messes they have left behind, and are forced to compensate the people that have been affected by these profiteering companies.

Government Role
How is the government dealing with these corporate despots? Washington is considering limiting the liability of oil companies that have contaminated water supplies because "they were federally mandated to do so".3

The Finale?
With the help of the Bush Administration, our nation is changing from a democratic society to one ruled by corporate moguls. If gluttony is President Bush's idea of a moral standard then he is not the president America needs. Can these corporations really get away with poisoning so many American citizens? They will if George Bush remains president for another four years. Please, remember to vote in the upcoming election. We cannot survive another four years of poison and greed.


1 "MTBE in Drinking Water", www.epa.gov
2 "MTBE in Fuels", www.epa.gov
3 "MTBE: WHAT THE OIL COMPANIES KNEW AND WHEN THEY KNEW IT", Environmental Working Group, 25 August 2004

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