Chevron earns record profits -- but isn't reporting the inhuman costs of its global enterprise

When Chevron Corp. holds its annual shareholders meeting at its San Ramon headquarters May 27, its top executives are expected to give investors a glowing report on how this global enterprise came to rake in a profit of $23.9 billion last year — a staggering 28.1 percent increase over the past year.

As Chevron CEO Dave O'Reilly put it in the company's annual report, 2008 was "a momentous year." Apparently O'Reilly will also claim that his company's activities are improving people's lot worldwide. "Energy," he writes, "is not a luxury — it's the foundation for economic growth. By investing in the future, we're creating value not only for our stakeholders, but we're also building economic prosperity around the globe."

But O'Reilly's high opinion of his company is not shared by a growing coalition of groups who believe that Chevron's fifth consecutive year of record profits was earned, once again, at the cost of degrading the environment and its poorest communities, both here in Richmond and further afield, from the Amazon and Nigeria to Iraq and Kazakhastan.

Critics, who include what they describe as "a coalition of those directly affected by Chevron's operations, political control, consumer abuse, and false promises," planned to hold a May 26 press conference to release The True Cost of Chevron, an alternative annual report that seeks to provide Chevron shareholders "with the most comprehensive exposé of Chevron's operations — and the communities in struggle against them — ever compiled," according to the report's authors.

The study includes reports from Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, the Gulf Coast, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Utah, Washington, D.C, and Wyoming as well as Angola, Burma, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, and the Philippines.

The next day, people carrying shareholder proxies intend to enter Chevron's annual meeting to discuss the report with shareholders while a protest is held at Chevron's front gates.

"Chevron's 2008 annual report is a glossy celebration of the company's most profitable year in its history, and one in which CEO David O'Reilly became the 15th highest paid U.S. chief executive, with nearly $50 million in total 2008 compensation," the authors state. "What Chevron's annual report does not tell its shareholders is the true cost paid for those financial returns or the global movement gaining voice and strength against Chevron's abuses."

The 44-page report details numerous lawsuits against the company, nationally and around the world — cases, the report's authors claim, that have "potential liabilities in excess of Chevron's total revenue from 2008, posing a material threat to shareholder value and the company's bottom line."

As they wrote: "When a company operates in blatant disregard for the health, security, livelihood, safety, and environment of communities within which it operates, there can be real financial repercussions."

The report concludes with six specific obligations demanded of Chevron and leaves shareholders with the following message: "Chevron is right. The world will continue to use oil as it transitions to a sustainable green renewable energy economy.