Ending Our Addiction to Oil

The oil spill off the Louisiana shore is exacting a huge toll on the environment. Another thread is being pulled from the grand tapestry of life and, no matter how distant, it affects us all. Fingers are being pointed in plenty of directions, but how many of us take personal responsibility for the disaster? We have all contributed.

We’ve grown up in a society based on the oil standard. It’s so ingrained in our culture that we barely give it a thought. Yet at this point in time, we are utterly dependent on oil for almost everything we take for granted in modern life, either directly or indirectly. Here in the southwest, we don’t use fuel oil for heating our homes, but most of our communities are designed around the fact that nearly everyone has (or needs) a car. Thus, even our homes are at least indirectly responsible for our rapacious appetite for oil.

We’ve allowed this to happen. Lured by seemingly cheap, unlimited energy and the unprecedented convenience that it provides, our use of fossil fuels is proving to be anything but cheap or unlimited. In fact, it has all the hallmarks of addiction, defined as “the  state  of  being  enslaved  to  a  habit  or  practice  or  to  something  that  is  psychologically  or  physically  habit-forming  to  such  an  extent  that  its  cessation  causes  severe  trauma.” Who would doubt that an absence of oil would result in severe trauma to our society? Yet many of us accept this state of affairs as “normal” or even a basic human right.

Disasters have a way of spurring us to take extraordinary action to help each other. If there is a silver lining to this disaster, perhaps it is that. Can we funnel our shock and emotion into positive action? Will greater awareness, less consumption and responsible energy policy become a by-product of environmental calamity? And if not, then what will it take?

Climate change is, for some folks at least, somewhat nebulous – a slow motion disaster that is difficult to grasp and easy to deny. On the other hand, a blown-out well spewing millions of gallons of toxic petroleum into the ocean is in-your-face, undeniable reality. Is that enough for us to change our ways? Perhaps this oil spill is destined to become just another faded headline, like the Exxon Valdez disaster, as we return to our daily routines and business as usual. We decide.

As citizens, we can accept our role in creating this situation and take responsibility for it. There are lots of ways to reduce (and eventually eliminate) our need for oil and improve our lives in the process.

In the short term, we can car pool, maintain our vehicles properly and when the time is right, choose high-mileage vehicles to replace them. We can increase our mass-transit options and even improve our health by walking or cycling more. Buying locally produced food and other goods is a good strategy. We can choose to stay closer to home, take stay-cations or more localized vacations. Technology like Skype or other video conferencing tools can help reduce business travel and save money.

In the longer term, we can build green communities designed for human-scale interaction, health and self-sufficiency. We can continually improve our transportation technology, integrating it with smart grid and renewable energy systems that are not dependent on oil at all.

Those are just a few ideas. The fact that we use oil in so many ways is also the reason that we have so many options to reduce our need for it. We all play a role in societal change. Find a way that works for you – something you’re interested in. Focus on that aspect of change until you’ve created results. Then, share your knowledge with others. It feels good to break an addiction.

Additional Resources:


  1. The nice post assited me very much! Saved your site, very great topics just about everywhere that I see here! I like the information, thanks.