Truth to Power

Capitalism becomes cannibalism: Dr. Pepper in the desert

Dr Pepper’s Wet Dream: Water, Government Subsidies and Transfer of Wealth in the Middle of the Desert

VICTORVILLE, Calif. – On a sun-baked afternoon in October 2008, a group of soft-drink executives and city officials gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony at an old Air Force base on the outskirts of the city, 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

They were standing on the edge of the Mojave Desert, one of the driest, most inhospitable terrains in America. Yet there they were, posing for photographs, gold-plated shovels in hand, to mark the construction of a massive new bottling plant and distribution hub for the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, a facility that will to suck up hundreds of millions of gallons of water a year from this water-scarce area to supply soft drinks to 20 percent of its domestic market.

The $120 million plant will occupy 57 acres, with 200 low-skilled workers manning almost 1 million square feet of warehouse space. Using 250 million gallons of water a year, six production lines will crank out 350,000 gallons worth of liquid refreshments a day, shipping perennial soft-drink favorites like Dr Pepper, Snapple, 7UP, A&W, Hawaiian Punch and 50 other brands all across the West Coast and Southwest.

The Victorville plant was a steal for the beverage manufacturer, receiving tens of millions of dollars in subsidies from the city.</strong> Local officials have painted it as a win-win situation, talking up the jobs and tax revenue it will bring to a community hard-hit by the recession and housing market collapse.

To Victorville officials, the advantages of job growth, no matter how minuscule, far outweigh any concerns over the increased water use. But some locals are not convinced that the plant is such a good idea. Because no matter how you slice it, corporate interests and political ambitions come out as the only real winners.</em>

This is madness. Who in their right mind sticks a water-guzzling factory in the desert? Someone who gets to do it on somebody else’s dime- and water. The annual average precipitation for Detroit is 33.58 inches. And that city is about to rust away to nothing, and I’m sure they’d fall over themselves to get Dr. Pepper there. So why Victorville? Has everyone lost the ability to look further than their next paycheck? Once the tax breaks stop, or they find some other sucker town with a nickel better kickback, the “Dr Pepper Snapple Group” will shut down the plant, move along, and Victorville will be literally…dust.

And they deserve it.

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