Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We Need Our Oil...

I'm not here to say much about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I've kept quiet since the Deepwater Horizon sank almost two months ago today, and to be perfectly honest, there has been so much written and broadcast about it in the interim that any more would be beating a dead horse, or a dead pelican/sea turtle/sperm whale as the case my be. (Too soon? Yeah, I think so).

Also I spent the first week or so of the disaster glued to my TV and laptop, hoping for some shred of good news, but when that good news never came I did what any other sane person would do when trying to rationalize that which cannot be rationalized: I disassociated myself from it emotionally. There have been too many conflicting feelings bouncing around in my head to tease out a coherent narrative or opinion even if I wanted to. So let's keep it simple, shall we?

I came across the following video a few weeks ago and I think it sums up the situation in the Gulf pretty nicely:

Aside from being adorable and pretty darn funny there's an important take-away at the end after the CEO's faux change of heart. As justification for doing nothing to help those who are suffering, he tells Cooper, "It's f**king oil man, they'll need us again." As sad as this is, I can't help but agree. Over the last hundred years or so, we've built our society on a foundation whose success and stability depends on oil, and lots of it. This is also one of the reasons I actually don't believe this oil spill will have any measurable impact on investment in renewable energy technologies and the like. Oil (and the oil industry for that matter) is too entrenched in our way of life to disappear overnight, even in the face of the current catastrophe wreaking havoc on the ecosystems and local economies of the Gulf.

There's one more noteworthy nugget in the video above, and that's the message that comes up on the screen at the very end of the clip. In case you missed it, it read: "You're not mad enough to not drive your car." (Which also relates well to a political cartoon I came across in Newsweek a few days ago)

Though this perceived consumer hypocrisy is a closely related matter, and my support for consumer-based activism is well documented throughout this blog, to me this falls under a slightly different category precisely because of the role that oil plays in our lives today. In many cases there is only so much we can do to limit our consumption of it. What if there are no alternatives to driving our cars from Point A to Point B? (And in many places across the country, there are no alternatives, believe me). We can be as angry as we want at BP and still be justified in filling up the tank and driving to work because we live in a broken system that needs much more attention before these types of behaviors can be changed, and these types of judgments levied appropriately. (If you think this is a cop-out let me know and we can talk about it.)

For now we need our oil, we need our oil, and there is no escaping that reality. Yes, a transition away from fossil fuels is currently underway, but it has been painstakingly slow and it will take much more than an oil spill, even a really really REALLY bad one to accelerate that process.

I said I wasn't going to say a lot about the oil spill and here I've rambled on for far too long. Alright, that's all for today - I'm off to try and find myself some of that marmalade...

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