The Multinational Monitor


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The March 1999 Lawrence Summers Memorial Award goes to Gwain Cornish, senior vice president and chemist at Royal Group Technologies in the UK. Countering charges about the hazards of burning polyvinyl chloride (PVC), he told the Wall Street Journal: "Even mashed potatoes give off more toxins than PVC." ("Just One Word: Plastics," by Eileen Daspin, Wall Street Journal, January 22, 1999.)

Compared even to the technical and antiseptic language of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's draft dioxin reassessment -- "Dioxin-like compounds can be generated and released to the environment from various combustion processes when chlorine donor compounds [like PVC] are present." -- Cornish's comment is extraordinary. (Thanks to Charlie Cray of Greenpeace for this Summers nomination.)

In a 1991 internal memorandum, then-World Bank economist and current Deputy Secretary of Treasury Lawrence Summers argued for the transfer of waste and dirty industries from industrialized to developing countries. "Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?" Summers wrote. "I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. ... I've always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is vastly inefficiently low [sic] compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City." Summers later said the memo was meant to be ironic.