Anti-war campaigners shut scores of Esso garages and bar entrance to company HQ

Last edited 23 February 2003 at 8:00am
23 February, 2003

Greenpeace UK says oil giant is shoulder to shoulder with Bush on war and global warming

Civil disobedience by peace campaigners has this morning seen the UK operation of the world's most powerful company severely disrupted across seventeen counties.

Greenpeace volunteers in small mobile teams are closing down scores of Esso petrol stations across the UK, from Hampshire to Yorkshire, Wales to Norfolk, with many towns and cities effected. Another one hundred volunteers have peacefully blocked the entrance to the company's huge UK headquarters in Surrey, where more than a thousand staff normally work.

The action comes in response to Esso's on-going campaign to keep the US hooked on oil, fuelling war and causing global warming. The Texas-based oil giant funds front groups that are aggressively advocating an attack on Iraq. Top city analysts at Deutsche Bank have pointed to the 'huge political weight' Esso wields over the White House and say the company 'may find itself in pole position in a changed-regime Iraq.'

From dawn today the volunteers - some dressed in tiger costumes - began shutting down power to Esso pumps and locking nozzles together before moving on to the next garage. The handles from electricity switches have been removed and posted to Esso board members in Texas. Volunteers in Surrey have peacefully blocked the only road entrance to the company's UK headquarters in Leatherhead by parking a lorry across the only access point. A container has been lowered from the bottom of the vehicle and secured to the road.

Greenpeace campaigner Anita Goldsmith said: "This looming war is a barely disguised attempt by George Bush to get his hands on Iraqi oil, and no company has done more to fuel the crisis than his paymasters at Esso. They have spent millions keeping the US hooked on oil, bank-rolling pro-war lobby groups and fighting international action on climate change. If people want to stop oil wars and global warming, one thing we can all do is refuse to buy petrol from Esso."

A new Greenpeace report shows how oil is fuelling the drive to war and the role Esso has played. THE TIGER IN THE TANKS, published today, details how:

  • Esso funds front groups that are aggressive and vocal advocates of an attack on Iraq. Pentagon ultra-hawk Richard Perle is Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, funded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars by Esso. Vice-chair at the Institute is Esso CEO and Chairman Lee Raymond.
  • Esso has run a ten-year dirty tricks campaign to subvert efforts to reduce US oil dependence and its impact on our climate. Documents procured through the US Freedom of Information Act demonstrate the role Esso played in removing the head of the UN's influential global warming panel.
  • Iraq is sitting on ten per cent of the world's oil reserves. In 1998 Washington hawks including Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz wrote to Bill Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq. Otherwise, they argued, 'a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will be put at hazard.'
  • Esso funded the election of George W Bush and other Republican politicians. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vice President Dick Cheney's staff invited Esso to discuss the Iraq crisis at an 'informational' meeting. Esso's historic interest in Iraqi oil, along with its stake in the wider Middle East, make it a prime and natural candidate for a post-war carve up of Iraqi oil fields.
  • In October last year a US Department of Energy report stated that, 'Iraq's oil production costs are amongst the lowest in the world, making it a highly attractive oil prospect.'
  • The volunteers include a Baptist minister, a bank manager and a beauty therapist. The Leatherhead protesters are handing copies of the report to Esso staff, some of whom have expressed disquiet at the company's policies. The lorry blocking the entrance to the building carries a huge picture of George Bush and the slogan, 'ESSO, STOP FUELLING WAR'.

Only populated areas are effected by today's action, meaning alternative garages are available to drivers. The mobile teams have used a simple mechanical technique to close electricity to forecourt pumps. The switch handles have been posted to Esso board members with a letter that explains why Greenpeace has taken action today and urges the company to reverse its destructive policies.

Esso front groups say a public aim of war on Iraq should be to 'ensure that US and world energy markets have access to its resources.' The company continues to deny that climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas.

Further information:Please contact the Greenpeace press office on 0207 865 8255

Notes: Click here for TIGER IN THE TANKS briefing document

A Deutsche Bank report in September 2002 states that Esso status as the largest US oil company "gives it major political weight with the US government It may find itself in pole position in a changed-regime Iraq."

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