Such distribution of revenue among citizens is unusual; in most parts of the world where fossil fuels are extracted, local residents suffer pollution without compensation. When multinational corporations pay developing nations for access to extract oil or gas, the money generally does not trickle down from government officials to the people who live where the extraction takes place. Moreover, oil-rich developing nations such as Ecuador, Venezuela, and Nigeria tend to have few environmental regulations, and governments may not enforce regulations if doing so would jeopardize losing the large sums of money associated with oil development.


In Ecuador, local people brought suit against Chevron for environmental and health impacts from years of oil extraction in the nation’s rainforests. An Ecuadorian court in 2011 found the oil company guilty and ordered it to pay $9.5 billion for cleanup—the largest-ever such judgment. Chevron refused, and the court battle proceeded to the United States, where a judge threw out the ruling. The ongoing legal battle has now moved to other nations. In Nigeria, the Shell Oil Company extracted $30 billion of oil from land of the native Ogoni people.


Oil spills, noise, and gas flares caused chronic illness among them, but oil profits went to Shell and to Nigeria’s military dictatorships, while the Ogoni remained in poverty with no running water or electricity. Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa worked for fair compensation to the Ogoni.