Addicted to Oil? What a Dumb Idea

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We’re
addicted to oil. It’s official. The Western world is hooked
on the black stuff and Americans are the biggest energy junkies
of them all.

This oft-quoted,
little-criticised idea has been around for years, but there has
been a veritable addiction-to-oil blowout since the BP-hired drilling
platform, Deepwater Horizon, sank in the Gulf of Mexico on
20 April, killing 11 rig workers and depositing tens of thousands
of barrels of oil into the sea on a daily basis.

The most high-profile
airing of the oil-addiction idea came in President Barack Obama’s
televised Oval
Office address
to the nation last week. ‘For decades, we
have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered’,
he told viewers. ‘For decades, we’ve talked and talked
about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil
fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of
urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward
has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also
by a lack of political courage and candor.’

The addicted-to-oil
thesis is not a dry discussion of energy policy – rather it is a
pointed attack on consumers. Underpinning this idea is a sense that
relatively well-off Westerners are too stupid and too greedy to
realise that their use of oil is a bad thing.

So Gregor
Peter Schmitz
, writing in Spiegel International last
week, tried to give some context to the risky business of deepwater
oil production. ‘[T]here is also a simple reason that BP and
other oil companies are drilling at depths of up to 1,500 metres
(4,900 feet), far from the coast. They are servicing a greed for
cheap energy and resources that fuels 250million automobiles on
America’s roads, keeps the country’s countless air-conditioners
running and provides water for fantasy cities in the middle of deserts.
There are 300million Americans – around five per cent of the global
population – but they consume around 25 per cent of the world’s
oil.’

Schmitz clearly
regards Americans as petulant children, unwilling to accept the
painful medicine of reducing oil consumption. He also criticises
the fact that Obama himself is pretty vague about actually introducing
incentives and taxes to move away from oil. Schmitz puts this down
to the electoral disaster that befell former president Jimmy Carter
when he told the US electorate that they had to reduce their energy
usage: ‘That’s not the kind of thing Americans want to
hear. In 1980, voters drove Carter out of office. In his speech,
Carter called for 20 per cent of the United States’ energy
to come from solar power by 2000 and for an end to dependence on
foreign oil. Today, only one per cent of the energy America consumes
comes from solar power, and two-thirds of its oil is imported from
abroad.’

Read
the rest of the article

June
25, 2010

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