Royal Dutch Shell is the third-largest oil and gasoline company worldwide. The Netherlands-based company operates more than 13,000 service stations in the United States under its Shell brand. The company's 2005 sales reached more than $300 billion.
Shell has been condemned by many organizations, including the Sierra Club, for its support of the military government in Nigeria. In 1995, nine Ogoni activists were killed for protesting the company's Nigerian operations. A decade later, the Federal High Court of Nigeria ordered Shell and other oil companies to stop gas flaring, an environmentally destructive practice that exposes Nigerians to dangerous levels of air pollutants.
Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP, as well as a handful of other exploration and pipeline companies are being charged in a class-action lawsuit filed weeks after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of southern Louisiana. The class-action case faults oil and exploration companies for heightening the level of ruin caused by the hurricane. Plaintiffs claim that in efforts to uncover oil and natural gas, these companies indiscriminately and irresponsibly dredged the coastal wetlands of Louisiana, which serve as a critical natural buffer against storm surges and flooding. The case was filed on behalf of all Hurricane Katrina survivors.
In March 2004 a Nicaraguan court ordered Shell and two other US multinationals to pay $82.9 million dollars to 80 farmers made sick by the pesticide nemagon (also known as fumazone) on banana plantations in the 1970s. Nemagon's active ingredient is dibromochloropropane or DBCP, formerly classified "extremely hazardous" and now classified "obsolete or "discontinued" by the World Health Organization (WHO). The pesticide was produced in the late 1950s by Dow Chemical and Shell, and was continuously sold to developing countries after the U.S. banned the chemical. According to the Organic Consumers Association, "DBCP is believed to cause sterility, testicular atrophy, miscarriages, birth defects, liver damage and cancer when inhaled or absorbed by the skin."
In 2002, California sued Shell, along with other gasoline companies now owned by Chevron and ConocoPhillips, for its use of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) in its products. According to the EPA, MTBE causes both cancerous and noncancerous effects in laboratory animals; the agency issued an MBTE drinking-water advisory in 1997. Shell began phasing out the use of MTBE in California in 2002. However, the company still uses MTBE in some areas internationally.
Announced in 1998, the Cuiaba pipeline in South America has been controversial from the onset. Running through Bolivia's Chiquitano Tropical Forest, the 390 mile long natural gas pipeline was built by the now infamous Enron and is partly owned by Shell is part owner of the Cuiaba pipeline in South America. The pipeline has substantially affected indigenous communities that reside in the region surrounding the pipeline, threatened more than 90 endangered species living in the forest, and has led to an increase in illegal logging and poaching. Indigenous communities, NGOs and even the governments of the countries effected proposed alternative routes for the pipeline, but Enron and Shell claimed they would be too costly.
Royal Dutch/Shellís Sakhalin Energy Investment Corporation was denied legal approval to build a liquid natural gas (LNG) plant on Sakhalin Island off the Pacific coast of Russia. The company submitted an environmental impact review for the plant, which Russian courts subsequently rejected as insufficient for preserving the integrity of the environment around the planned facility. Opposition groups expressed concern over the plantís impact on Sakhalinís thriving fisheries and endangered gray whale population. Shellís subsidiary has been illegally constructing the beginnings of the LNG plant, having already deposited nearly two million cubic meters of waste into Aniva Bay which is critical habitat for crab, scallop, and numerous fish including salmon and sole. International environmental groups predict that the Environmental Inspection Service of Russia will soon put a stop to the construction.
In 2002, Shell and Olympic Pipe Line Company agreed to pay some $100 million in civil and criminal penalties because of their roles in the 1999 gasoline pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Washington, which killed three people (including two ten-year-old boys).
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, the company has been accused of contaminating soil, air, and water and causing health problems in local communities.
In 1999, Shell was one of 12 companies sued by a California environmental group, Communities for a Better Environment, for allowing intentional discharge of carcinogens and reproductive toxins to seep into California's water supply.
STANCE ON GLOBAL WARMING
In 2002, Shell met its goal of reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions to 10 percent below its 1990 levels. By 2005, the company's emissions were a full 15 percent below its 1990 levels.
Shell is an active member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Shell, along with BP and Chevron, is a member of the Energy and Biodiversity Initiative, which is convened by the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business. The initiative seeks to bring together energy companies and conservation organizations to develop guidelines for integrating biodiversity into oil and gas development. Shell also has close links to the World Conservation Union.
Shell is the world's leading distributor of biofuels, has hydrogen stations in five countries, and has pledged $1 billion to developing alternative energy since 2000.