The Blame Game, Gulf oil spill version.

There is a lot of finger-pointing going on right now over who is to blame for the horrible disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which is already the largest oil spill in U. S. history.  Suppose we find the person(s) responsible.  Will that change what has happened?  Will affixing blame prevent what has happened from happening again?  Probably not, in both cases.  And the real blame lies with American consumers, who steadfastly refuse to give up driving by themselves everywhere that they go, paying any amount for the gasoline they need, and turning a blind eye to the future.

The only reason that BP was drilling a well nearly a mile under the surface of the ocean was because they stood to make a profit from it.  With gasoline selling for nearly 3 dollars a gallon, oil companies are willing to try to extract crude oil under any conditions.  The hot new area for oil exploration right now is off of the coast of Brazil, in 10,000 feet of water.  The oil deposits lie nearly 3 miles beneath the sea floor, which means having a stick of pipe nearly 5 miles long.  The oil that is recovered is going to be very expensive, but the demand is so great that profits are assured.

The only way to stop this insanity is to reduce our consumption of petroleum products.  As long as huge profits are in the offing, people will do anything to be part of the gravy train.  More regulations won’t help, tighter supervision won’t help, greater accountability won’t help.  In many ways, this is very similar to the war on drugs.  All that we have accomplished by cracking down on drugs is to make selling and producing them even more profitable, which means that someone is ready to step up every time someone else gets busted.

The oil companies are like pushers, trying to get us to use as much of their product as possible, while trying to keep the competition from making any gains in their turf.  We could reduce our dependence on oil substantially, but that is the last thing that the oil companies want us to do.  They want us willing to pay any price for a gallon of gas, willing to stand in long lines to purchase this miracle substance, willing to buy vehicles which get poor mileage.  They don’t want us deciding to ride the bus or the train instead of driving, or carpooling, or riding our bicycle, or walking, because the oil companies can’t make a profit on those activities.

Big business wants the government to do everything possible to keep energy cheap, even if it threatens our survival.  We will do almost anything, pay almost any price, for the illusion of freedom that comes with owning a car.  So we created the demand for oil that induced BP to drill for oil in 5000 feet of water.  We are the ones who are pressuring the government to open up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for oil production, not the oil companies.  We are the ones who are willing to buy oil from people who want to destroy us.  Changing our lifestyles to ways that are sustainable, which do not degrade the planet, is the only way to stop the oil companies from creating more disasters.  The government can’t do it, special interest groups can’t do it, religion can’t do it.  Every time that we drive a car, we are voting for more exploration, greater acceptance of risk, higher gasoline prices.

All we have to do is to leave the car at home when we commute to work, or to school, and we would reduce the demand for oil considerably.  And we should do so anyway, just to get ready for the days when we can no longer afford all the gasoline that we want.  Because things are going to change, and we will have to change in response.  It is much easier to make a change willingly than it is to be forced to change.  We need to have alternatives in place for when gasoline is just too expensive.

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