Sunday, July 11, 2010


I usually am not impressed with opinion pieces which state the obvious, but on occasion it actually is necessary to state the obvious because too many people are overlooking it. Such was the case with this article from Chile's La Nacion. The subject is that of the US addiction to oil and the repercussions of that addiction.

It is common sense that if the United States wishes to reduce their oil dependency, they should use fewer vehicles than they do. Today, nearly every American licensed to drive has a car. Of each 1,000 potential drivers, 981 have a car. It is by far the highest percentage in the world. ...

The society and economy generate dynamic contradictions. It is common sense that if the U.S. seeks to reduce its dependence on oil, they should use fewer vehicles than they do. In spite of this, on account of the economic crisis triggered in 2008, one of Obama’s first moves was to rescue General Motors and offer a stimulus so that Americans could exchange older cars for new machines. These transactions were subsidized by the U.S. Treasury with thousands of dollars. In order to stimulate public works, he assigned funds for highway construction. It was an opportunity to direct major investments to railroads, in order to decrease the generalized use of airplanes and cars and stimulate public transportation.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is already the biggest ecological disaster in the history of the U.S. Public opinion blames, with good reason, BP. But in terms of addressing oil consumption as an addiction, society as a group should assume their share of responsibility. For example, in the case of drugs, the producing countries and the drug traffickers should answer for their actions. But consumers are also guilty for creating a demand that, if it did not exist, would not give rise to the supply. In the same way, excessive consumption of oil pushes businesses to look for it in the depths of oceans, each time with more difficulty than the last. As a consequence, the possibility of a leak or spill is great and the methods of containing it are more problematic.

There, pretty much in a nutshell, is why BP is running the show in the Gulf and why we will continue to have more disasters there and everywhere else the oil companies choose to drill. That said, however, I would not ration out the blame so even-handedly, at least not at this point.

One of the jobs of whoever sits in the Oval Office is to lead his/her country into saner policies. President Obama had that chance right from the start, even in the midst of the financial meltdown. In fact, that financial meltdown gave him the ideal opportunity to persuade the nation that that we absolutely had to reset our economy and not just in terms of the financial machinations which brought on the chaos.

He could have used his bully pulpit to urge Americans to embrace the goal of alternative energy sources. He could have detailed a proposal to ensure the development of replacements for carbon-based energy sources and made that a proposal a national priority, with federal funding at the research level and federal subsidies for those entrepreneurs already working at that goal.

He also could have sternly scolded us for our own wasteful use of petroleum, using our cars to drive to the corner grocery store and then bringing home our goods in plastic bags. He could have rescued the term "conservation" from the dirty-word lexicon former Vice President Cheney placed it in.

He could have, but he didn't.

Instead, he spent the first year of his administration defending the bail-out of the banksters his predecessor ordered. His stimulus package was done on the cheap, with the result that unemployment is still the main drag on the economy. He politely asked the banks to loosen credit for businesses, especially small businesses, so that those businesses could hire. When the banks refused, he merely shrugged his shoulders.

So much for change.



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