Every time you turn on the radio or the TV, you’re bound to hear something that basically boils down to the following: “we’re addicted to oil” or we’re using too much oil, or we’re being wasteful etc… I would like to ask, what does that mean?
Before I explain what I mean let me say that I understand that we might be running out of cheap oil and that we might not find any large discoveries anymore (like Ghawar in Saudi Arabia). In addition, I recognize that we have a problem with GHGs and it’s necessary to do something about it. My question is: Why is the message trying to make us feel bad when most of the choices people make are not entirely their own. Let me explain.
They say people in America like to drive their cars and love their gas-guzzling SUVs and they can’t use mass transit etc…What does it mean to be car loving? What options do I have? For example in Houston a lot of people live in the suburbs and drive downtown for work (it’s funny but it seems that the suburbs of Houston will eventually encompass Austin). Those folks that live out in Katy or Sugarland are driving 20 to 30 miles each way. Yes they’re using a lot of gas but it’s not because they love their cars and it’s not because they are addicted to oil it’s simply because they live far away from work and because there is no other viable alternative (affordability of housing within the city limits is a big issue in Houston).
Most cities in the US are not planned around public transportation and thus car usage becomes necessary. In addition, most cities in the US do not encourage high occupancy type living (high rises and apartments) so people have no option but to look for housing in the suburbs and they have no incentive to stay closer to the city center.
Ok fine so some people like to drive large SUVs (AKA gas-guzzlers). These folks are not terrible and are not environmentally insensitive they just like a different kind of vehicle! Some people are vegetarian while others are steak lovers – who’s better? (Now that I read the entry about meat production I’m feeling a bit guilty about my beef-short-rib dinner last night). Some people work close to home while consultants have to travel perhaps multiple times a week. Are consultants to blame because of their carbon footprint! Some airlines are offering customers the option of paying extra to offset their carbon “costs”. Even UT jumped on the bandwagon! When you print in the ECJ lab you can check your credits and it’ll tell you what your print job is in equivalent trees killed and lightbulbs turned on! What’s that supposed to mean? I can’t read online – I already wear glasses and my vision is deteriorating, what am I supposed to do, hire someone to read for me???
All what I’m trying to say is that we are not addicted to oil. We are using the means at our disposal – it’s not Exxon’s fault that Joe Blow decides to live in Katy and drive 20 miles (one way to work). It’s not my fault for printing the reading. Rather than saying we are addicted to oil why not say we haven’t been given alternatives or we have no other option.
For example, large parts of Western Europe don’t use air conditioning (over the last few years the market for ACs grew a bit in France) because it doesn’t get too hot in the summer and even if it did it only last for a few days. On the other hand, large portions of the US face over 5 months of high humidity and high heat – do I blame those folks for using their ACs 24/7 for 5 months? No, it’s not they’re fault – they’re not addicted to oil and they’re not addicted to coal (for electricity powering their ACs), they’re definitely not addicted to ACs – they’re just hot!
All what I’m saying is that we should not blame the user – we should give competitive options and incentives to change and then we will see results. This guilt trip is not gonna work! Now where’s my steak!
PS: My apologies if this post offends anyone but I just wanted to express my honest opinion on the matter!