If you’re like me, your head will be spinning reading Jim Motavalli’s cover story this issue (“The Outlook on Oil,” page 26). How can so many “experts” and “industry analysts” have such varying opinions as to when we will—or when we did—reach the world’s peak of oil production? What with predictions ranging from right now to 30 years hence to 30 years ago, I can only conclude one of two things: (a) only one of them is right; or (b) none of them are right.
But as I see it the whole debate about when oil might peak or run out is not unlike that proverbial argument about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Even if we have 10 thousand years” worth of oil still beneath our feet we should still move quickly to find alternatives and mark an end to our petroleum century. It won’t be easy, as there is no quick-fix solution. But it’s demonstrably true that a combination of alternative energies (especially wind, solar and bio-fuels) and conservation could put us on a clean energy path. Just by switching from gas-guzzling SUVs to fuel-sipping hybrids like the Prius in my driveway, we”ll strike a major blow for energy independence and a safer environment for all.
We’re paying through the nose to keep our fleet of Expeditions and Hummers on the road. Oil companies, the only game in town for most of the last century, now operate with unprincipled arrogance. According to The Washington Post, CEOs from ExxonMobil, Conoco, Shell Oil and BP America met in the White House with the Cheney energy task force in 2001 (no environmental groups were invited), and then brazenly denied it in recent Congressional testimony. Further, ExxonMobil proudly proclaimed that it was not investing a single dollar of its record $9 billion quarterly profit in alternatives.
Our reliance on oil is not only killing American soldiers and innocent Iraqis; it is killing us all, just more slowly. The industry is fraught with accidents, like the Exxon Valdez spill that killed 250,000 wild animals and birds, and it is putting dangerous chemicals into our air, land and water every second of every day, contributing to climate change, increased asthma rates and a whole host of health and environmental ills. Oil is toxic to all life in all of its burned and unburned, refined and unrefined forms and it is time that we left it alone and put our vast resources to work converting to clean energy.
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