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We Are Oil Responsible; Can We Get Serious About Kicking the Habit?

We Are Oil Responsible; Can We Get Serious About Kicking the Habit?

Make no mistake:BP stinks. Their Gulf accident and safety violation record, their lack of transparency, their short-term profit focus are all sickening. But ultimately, BP is only truly responsible for this spill if you believe that drilling for oil in a mile of water can ever be done safely. BP is part of a system that has made us all dependent on oil and petroleum-based products, and with our consumption spurring demand, we must all shoulder some of the blame for the calamity in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

It’s not just about the gas for driving cars. Oil is everywhere, trickling throughout our consumer-driven society. Denture adhesives, electric blankets, bras and bubble gum…they all contain oil. Cameras, carpets, umbrellas, vitamin capsules…ditto. Perhaps we are finally waking up to realize that what once seemed so cheap and plentiful is actually very, very expensive–and becoming more so. While scientists and politicians argue about whether Peak Oil (the moment of the global peak in oil production) has occurred or when it will, the fact is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to extract a complex product derived from ancient sunlight and the earth’s immense pressure.

The excellent environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert nails it: “Having consumed most of the world’s readily accessible oil, we are now compelled to look for fuel in ever more remote places, and to extract it in ever riskier and more damaging ways.”  It was only a matter of time before this disaster occurred.

In fact, other oil-producing countries endure spills and accidents and ongoing degradation of health and environment as a result of careless extraction.    Reuters quotes Holly Pattenden, African oil analyst at consultants Business Monitor International. “If this (the BP spill) were in the Niger Delta, no one would be batting an eyelid. They have these kind of oil spills in Nigeria all the time.” A recent eye-opening report on the situation in Nigeria is terrifying and chastening. On May 1 a rupture in an ExxonMobil pipeline spllled more than one million gallons into the Niger Delta in the space of a week. According to the Guardian: “In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico” in the BP spill. Nigerian writer Ben Ikari states: “The oil companies just ignore it. The lawmakers do not care and people must live with pollution daily. The situation is now worse than it was 30 years ago. Nothing is changing. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards.” Over half of Nigeria’s oil exports go to the U.S.; Nigerian oil makes up 8% of all U.S. imports.

Can the devastation that has only just begun serve any positive purpose? Can we turn our anger into action, tough action?  The kind of action where, in the short term, our cost of living will soar and our ability to get around will diminish? Can we give up some products and services, knowing that we will be sparing untold misery elsewhere and in the future? Can we sacrifice funding other projects to create a concerted, global plan for getting off fossil fuel by both reducing demand and developing alternatives? The search for easy answers is hopeless. The time for serious attention to getting off oil has come.

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Image: © Stephen Sweet via iStockphoto

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85 comments

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7:39PM PDT on Jun 30, 2010

It is sad and frustrating that this has been happening in other countries and was never brought to anyone's attention. I don't know about anyone else, but I am definitely willing, and in the process of, changing anything and everything possible to help to reduce, and hopefully eliminate in time, the demand for oil.

4:25PM PDT on Jun 7, 2010

thanks

4:54PM PDT on Jun 5, 2010

ty

2:01AM PDT on Jun 3, 2010

I wish we could just have some balls to change our ways away from oil. New and improved system. What happened to American ingenuity that I grew up being proud of?

11:41PM PDT on Jun 2, 2010

America is a big place with very spread out town planning. To build public transportation for this type of city is very time consuming & very expensive, mind you their economy is not in the best shape, e.g. California is at the break of bankruptcy, yet more urgent matters at hand e.g. to fix flood control system

To fix that problem, perhaps the habit of smaller car, more efficient cars, cellulose ethanol & electric cars are the way. This has to be a national policy & I have some faith with Obama, fingers cross. I can see there will be tough fight against the oil & related industry to go green. Very luckily the president is not Bush family or else there will be no way we can see fight against the oil industry.

p.s. We should remember & get our fact straight, (correct me if I am wrong) I read somewhere saying that in a list of global warming causes, >50% is from constructive industry, transportation accounts for 10+%, and the meat industry account for more than what transportation causes. We would also need to take account of the water consumption when that is another precious resources we will be running out of soon if we continue the way we live, what and how to plant, eating as much meat or not.

Some analyst say we might see $1000 a barrel of oil some day if we continue using this much oil, I guess by that time, there is no need to push the Gov. to persuade people to switch to other means but the price will.

8:41PM PDT on Jun 2, 2010

WE AREN'T RESPONSIBLE. WE HAVE NO CHOICE. I AM SICK OF OIL INDUSTRY APOLOGISTS SHIFTING THE BLAME TO THE CONSUMER. WE HAVE NO DAMN CHOICE. THE OIL AND PETROCHEMICAL INDUSTRIES ALWAYS HAVE AND ALWAYS WILL FIGHT TOOTH AND NAIL AGAINST ANY ALTERNATIVES. THEY CONTROL THE DAMN GOV'T AND THEY CONTROL THE CONSUMER, SO QUIT BLAMING ME. I HAVE NO CHOICE AND YES I AM YELLING...NO...I AM SCREAMING!!!!!!!!!

1:19PM PDT on Jun 2, 2010

How sad it is we do not have the political will to wean ourselves off of oil, and the products it produces. Kudos to Nancy Roberts for this article, and forcing us to face the fact it is "us" and our insatiable appetite for the "liquid gold" that's to blame.
Remember, when we point a finger, 3 fingers are pointing back.

9:13AM PDT on Jun 2, 2010

ty

8:34AM PDT on Jun 2, 2010

Asking a simple question - Why do we still rely on energy from oil when there is abundant energy waiting to be used from the sun.
Free, ecologically safe, no pollution and perpetual use.
Maintenance on the solar collectors is minimal compared to any other antiquated system used.

We must expose the corrupt, behind the door reason for not implicating Soar Power as our number one energy provider.

China, now the worlds expert and user of Solar Power is ahead of the rest of the world and building the worlds largest collectors

Do we wait to buy China's expertise and equipment to build our own or stay with health hazards of pollution with archaic modes and excuse all reasoning as job losses when with the cheaper form of power, similar to other countries a 4 day week would become an economic reality.

8:20AM PDT on Jun 2, 2010

I think the will is there for some of us, but not enough, any where near enough to start any immediate change. Europe has always paid much more for energy, especially their gasoline, but they also have excellent public transportation available. Meanwhile, it's Homo SAPiens as usual.

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