December 19, 2010

Are we hypocrites? Final thoughts on the Petroleum Industry


Our 6,000 lb trailer we haul around while guzzling gas

Like virtually all Americans, we are slaves to the petroleum industry.  These travels would not have been possible without our gas guzzling Ford pickup towing 6,000 lbs of trailer behind it. But, this is the world we live in; where the automobile is our only way to get from Point A to Point B and where everything we buy today is made from plastics, which came from oil, which were shipped to China using petroleum, manufactured by cheap labor, and then shipped back to us using petroleum again.

A Petrochemical Plant near New Orleans

I am not going to get on a high horse and tell all of you that you ought be riding your bike to work on busy 4-lane highways. I will not tell you that you ought to walk to work when the closest affordable housing is 30 miles away. I won't even tell you to only buy American and avoid Chinese products. These things just are not realistic or even reasonable in the world we live in today.

But, we CAN all make choices to reduce our dependence on petroleum, such as using cloth bags at the grocery store and recycling the plastics we do buy. Buying a more fuel efficient car, even a hybrid, would help. You can walk when you can, climbs stairs instead of the elevator, buy your groceries in larger quanities to reduce your need to make extra trips to the store and reduce the extra packaging of smaller containers, as well as, think about the impact of the products you buy. The list goes on and on.

So, the question is, knowing we are slaves, should we not live our lives because we feel guilty about what it does to the environment and to the health of my fellow citizens?

Liquified Natural Gas Plant at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge

I personally feel I live with these consequences every day. These trips, such as seeing the Lower Ninth Ward and the disappearing fishing villages of Louisiana, are reminders to us of what costs these technologies bring.  So, then it comes down to this; what can we do to migitate our own personal impact on the planet and what costs are acceptable.

For instance, Louisiana is Cancer Alley and has the highest rates of cancer in the United States (despite what the Shell Oil sponsored study may say). Louisiana is disappearing under the Gulf of Mexico. One of our biggest cities was destroyed by a hurricane partially because of the impacts of the oil industry. Our prime seafood locations are being spoiled by oil spills, killed by dead zones, and being sunk into deeper waters by subsidence caused by drilling.

So, is that it? Have we as Americans decided that destroying one of our 50 states is worth the cost to maintain our current way of life?

An oil platform at the dock

So, while I realize I am not perfect, I do have a goal...

By the end of my life, whatever contributions I can make to help the environment and to help people, exceeds that to which I consumed and destroyed.

That is why I am involved in education with the youth. That is why I donate $$$ to the Nature Conservancy. That is why I volunteer my own time to clean up beaches and cut down/dig up alien plants. That is why I write this blog.

While my efforts have been scattered and probably insignificant in my younger years, as I get older I am looking toward ways in which I can focus my efforts and see more tangible results. As I get more settled and stable, I will seek out ways to have less of an impact on the Earth. That may be by purposely buying a fuel efficient car and driving less. That may be focusing my buying power more onto organic foods, more wood and bamboo and less plastic, using biodegradable plastics when available, recycling even more, and reducing my consumption and waste.

Dead live oak forests due to subsidence caused by drilling

But, despite our hypocracy, there lies powerful forces trying to stop us from making these changes. The Petroleum industry has a vested interest in keeping us in slavery. They oppose any actions to try and increase our ability to choose greener forms of energy such as solar/wind/biodiesel and the like. Why not, their profits are at stake. Since the Citizen's United case, they have been getting ever more forceful in their involvement in the political process. Rather than just buying off politicians, now they are trying to buy us off.

I couldn't believe I had their read their political propaganda while filling the tank.

Personally, I have always felt that businesses should stay out of the overtly political realm. I know they use their lobbyists and fund our congressmen. But, when I am going to the store or the gas station, I do not want to have to make my decisions of where to spend my money based on their political affiliations, but rather on whether they provide the best products at the best price. But, the free market, in its truest form, is dead. We have entered a realm of Plutocracy. Corporations run our government and decide for us what we will consume, whether we have any choices,  and what will happen to our environment.

An abandoned house in the 9th Ward of New Orleans

So, in this "free market", we really don't get the choice of cleaner energy forms. Petroleum rules our world and they will fight hard to maintain their power, no matter what happens to the cancer victims in Baton Rouge or the fishermen in Delacroix, or the disappearing islands of the South Pacific, or the air quality in Houston.

So, yes we are hypocrites for complaining about the damage of the Petroleum Industry, while we drive around in our truck and trailer for our personal enjoyment and adventures. And it eats me up inside that this is the way we live.

But, are there any alternatives? Should we become hermits living off the grid? If so, then how do we learn about what is happening and how can we tell others? That is the irony we face.

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