Gulf Oil Spill: A Call to (Wrong) Action

14 05 2010

Tullow Oil Camp, Uganda

Is it just me, or are we once again missing the point?  We seem so stuck in old frames of reference that we now look for what is politically realistic rather than what is right and needed.

As I read through the news reports and press releases from environmental groups about the Gulf Oil Disaster, I keep seeing  “Calls to Action” – Now is the time to push the green energy agenda!  Now is the time to stop offshore drilling!  Now is the time to … take half a step in a sort-of-ok direction.

Sure – it is a good time to do all of those things.  I am all for capitalizing on disasters that highlight the dangers of fossil fuels.  However, there is one important action that I haven’t read a single thing about during this disaster – reducing our energy consumption.

I am all for green energy and want us to be working towards those sources, but those solutions are long-term, and all come with their own problems.  Poorly designed wind turbines kill birds.  Hydro kills fish.  Geothermal drilling taps into underground chambers that release unholy demons from below.

The only action that I am aware of that doesn’t have negative side-effects, and can be implemented immediately, is reducing consumption. Oh, wait, actually it does have side effects – it cuts into the profits of oil companies, middle-eastern governments and PR firms.

Why are we so unwilling to “tighten our belts?”  What is so different about us compared to our grandparents who were willing to endure severe rationing during the world wars to make sure that our country had a future?  Is that it?  Is it that we don’t see the current energy situation as a threat to our country and our future?  Well guess what – it is.  First of all, we are funding a lot of countries that don’t have our best interests in mind.  Second, by relying almost exclusively on fossil fuels and demanding SO MUCH of them, we will be hostages to those who have them if we run out.  Third, we are destroying the environment that we rely on for food, water and air – three things that I am personally pretty attached to.  Fourth, our continuing dependence on oil means we will have a continuing dependence on wars, which means more people on both sides are going to die.

I am not in denial about my own reliance on oil and other non-clean energy sources.  I drive a car.  I like having electricity in my house.  I wear Polartec clothing (yes, most of it is still made from oil).  When I read about pro-oil, drill-baby-drill movements, I don’t think “these people are just plain bad and we should never open up new areas for drilling.”  I believe that until we find a better alternative, we will probably need to find new sources of oil.  What I want to see first, though, is that we have done everything we can to reduce our own use before we decide that our need outweighs the risks to wildlife and the environment from new drilling.

So let’s use this moment to push for clean energy, because we need to start now if it is going to help us.  Let’s use it to stop new offshore drilling leases.  But first, let’s put something on the table ourselves – let’s make a statement that we are willing to do our part to reduce the demand that fuels these disasters in the first place.

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

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