I’m not sure whether it was Bill Clinton or George W. Bush who first uttered the phrase “addicted to oil” in the context of speaking about the American people. Whoever it was, the concept and the phrase seems to have stuck. It’s now a standard talking point for progressive politicians and hapless conservatives to mutter when they want to make some sort of a grand pronouncement on the subject of oil.
In Sunday’s New York Daily News, there was a large story headlined “We Are A Nation of Oiloholics: Instead of ranting at oil companies, pols, let’s look in the mirror” with a photo of a dejected-looking barfly holding out his glass while an unseen bartender pumps some good old Texas Tea into it.
Writes Colin Beavan (who reposts the article on his blog “No Impact Man“:
We are, in other words, more than a little bit like that alcoholic who’s mad at the bartender for serving him the drinks that he himself ordered. We Americans are slugging down the energy cocktails. Unless we want more and more calamities like in the Gulf, we have to own up to our energy addiction. It’s step one in the 12-step road to recovery.
The beauty of the argument is that if you deny this, well, then you’re just in denial. Step one: Admit you have a problem!
Well, count me among those in denial. For starters, I think the argument is little more than a trite insult to anyone dealing with serious substance abuse problems. But that’s really beside the point. The more important argument is that oil is the engine of our economy. Most obviously it makes our cars run, but it also makes manufacturing possible and is used in everything from plastics to paint. That CD you’re listening to? Made with petroleum products. The carpet you’re walking on? Made with petroleum products. The candles you’re lighting for a romantic evening? Made with petroleum products. The rubber soles on your sneakers, and the tread on your tires? You guessed it. Your dishwashing and laundry detergent? Oil and oil. That over-the-counter pain reliever? If it contains Acetylsalicylic acid then it’s made with petrochemicals (the key part being petro). The plastic part of a Band-Aid? Oil. The food additives that keep canned goods fresh? Yep, that’s oil, too. The fertilizer that makes our amber waves of grain and provides food for millions of people? Well, you get the idea.
I’m not sure Colin Beavan gets the idea, nor the people like him who walk around spouting sanctimonious drivel about our “addiction to oil.”
Our use of oil is an indicator of our economic prosperity and our economic stability. Far from being a symptom of some dread addiction, America’s use of oil is a sign that we are a bounteous nation. You know who doesn’t use a lot of oil? Starving people in Third World nations who would gladly trade their untouched by human hands vistas for the ability to hop in the car, drive to the supermarket, and buy a bunch of canned goods. It is oil that makes these things possible at this point in history.Beavan again:
We in the United States drive 20 times more miles a year than the Mexicans and twice as many as the Japanese. We use 10 times more electricity per person than the Egyptians and twice as much as the Saudis. To power this energy thirst, we each, on average, consume 10 times more oil per person than the Chinese and twice as much as the Germans. We burn seven times more coal per person than the Indians and three times more than the Brits. For all the talk of China’s climate emissions, each American still emits four times more greenhouse gas than each Chinese.
Am I really supposed to think that this is a problem? That we use more energy than countries where an enormous amount of people don’t have running water or electricity? That we drive more miles than people in Mexico…the same people who are coming to this country by the thousands precisely because we offer them a better life with, you know, more driving? That we drive further distances than the Japanese, who live on an island that is only a bit larger than twice the size of the Tri-State area (which includes two very small states)?
No, we are not a nation of oil addicts. We are a healthy and prosperous nation and should rightly be grateful to those dinosaurs who so selflessly kicked off and became fossil fuels so that we could live a better life with fast cars and air conditioning. We have nothing to be ashamed of, we have nothing to feel sorry for. It is our freedom and our liberty that gave us the plentiful benefits of living here and the attack from the Left, and their obsequious “me-too” useful idiots on the Right, on our oil use is little more than a guilt-ridden dagger to the heart of our freedom.
Perhaps someday there will be a substitute for oil. In fact, I’d bet on it. I’d also bet that it’s at least a few decades in the future and that it will evolve through a scientific breakthrough that happens by accident, not on the order of a politician. In the meantime, there is plenty of oil to go around, and using it is not a sickness that needs to be cured. Drink up, my friends. And if you choose not to, that’s fine. I’ll have one for you.
I bike commute frequently. People often say “wow, you are saving the environment”. To which I reply “no, I’m actually trying to prolong the problem, and keep the fuel prices lower for the rest of you”. Of course that goes over well, just as my explanation for being a vegetarian goes over “I hate plants and am trying to rid the world of them”.