Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Terrible True Cost Of Oil (That BP Doesn't Want You To See)

Notes from the BP hearing:

"(BP President Lamar) McKay, did, however, issue a plea for forbearance from Congressional and executive branch officials, saying: “America’s economy, security and standard of living today significantly depend upon domestic oil and gas production. Reducing our energy production, absent a concurrent reduction in consumption, would shift additional jobs and dollars offshore and place millions of additional barrels per day into tanker ships that must traverse the world’s oceans.”

As detestable as BP is, McKay is right about this. We absolutely must reduce our consumption of oil. And the reasons for this go far beyond those which McKay listed. Our out-of-control use of oil is the reason we are currently engaged in two wars, which are killing hundreds of thousands and costing the United States trillions. It is the reason we suffer from air pollution that kills thousands each year, and sickens many more. It is one of the reasons we are facing global climate change.

And today, it is the reason that a huge part of the ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico is dying, that thousands of fisherman and shrimpers have lost their livelihoods, and that millions more who rely on a clean ocean will pay a fearsome price.

But what McKay didn't say is that one of the main reasons Americans do not reduce their consumption is because he and the rest of his industry do everything in their power to keep Americans hooked on oil. And the way that they do that is by using Congress to hide the true costs of oil consumption.

When we buy gas at the pump, we pay only the cost of producing and delivering that gas, plus a little extra in taxes to maintain roads. The people who use gas don't directly pay the costs of trillion dollar wars, or pollution, or climate change, or of the devastation in the Gulf.

But those costs are real. The true cost of a gallon of gasoline is probably somewhere around $15. We all know there is no such thing as a free lunch. So who pays?

You do.

You pay in taxes to support imperialistic wars needed to secure large supplies of oil for our addicted population.

You pay every time you take a breath of polluted air.

You pay every time a landfill overflows with petroleum based plastics.

You pay every when production catastrophes result in a virtual destruction of large parts of our country.

And you pay for this even while the oil companies make hundreds of billions of dollars, while passing off the hidden costs to you.

We must reduce our use of oil. But we will never be able to do this as long as the oil industry pays off Congress to require us to pay the hidden costs of oil. These hidden costs make our alternatives to oil seem more expensive, even though they are not. And until we are able to see the true cost of our oil use, we will not kick the habit.

Maybe the silver lining in this disaster is that people will finally begin to see just how terrible is the price we pay.


  1. Cut your consumption then big shot.

  2. We're a nation of consumers. None of this will change until people wake up and begin to change the way their lives are structured,* and vote accordingly, either because a) they feel morally responsible for helping to trash the planet by overconsuming its resources (think materialistic, disposable societies...), or because b) it becomes too expensive to maintain that lifestyle (the true cost finally starts to trickle down to the consumer). The true cost of the "consume-consume-consume" lifestyle is very well disguised, as you just described. It can't be hidden indefinitely though. At some point, the house of cards is going to collapse.

    You just wonder how much damage is going to be done before it gets to that point.

    *and by "change the way their lives are structured," I mean that we need to stop collecting and consuming more and more "stuff." For example, how is it possible that so many people list "shopping" as a hobby/favorite pastime? Really, when you think about it - how irresponsible is that? I know so many women who "go shopping" and buy crap just because it's "fun" to constantly go and buy buy buy all this stuff. I don't care if you can afford it financially or not...how irresponsible is it to create a demand for this endless stream of "stuff" that nobody really needs, or often really wants...half of which ends up broken or worn out and in a landfill somewhere...more resources wasted. I just don't get it. No one needs to consume so much.

  3. Oh, and I know there's a LOT more to this than people's shopping addictions...I was just mentioning that as an example. So much of this is all tied together....people grossly overconsume, have to commute long distances to jobs in order to pay for the materialistic lifestyle, etc.

    It's become my goal to live as sustainably as possible on our little suburban quarter acre. We already grow about 1/3 of our food, buy locally (farmer's market) for most of the rest, reuse/repurpose whenever we can, avoid buying new as much as possible, etc. It is possible to live simply. We finally just quit buying into the "more is better" philosophy that's all around us. It's not. Life is better without all of the excess. What matters is God, family, and community, and we choose to focus on that.