Almost two years have passed since the BP oil spill, which marks the two year anniversary of my bicycle commuting. This has been my form of protest against Big Oil. But what has happened in these past two years? Gas prices are still climbing, with no end in sight. Our gas consumption patterns have not significantly changed. And the Gulf Coast? Still suffering, two years later.
This could have been – and dare I say should have been – a huge wake-up call for America. But sadly, it wasn’t. Last year, the University of Michigan published a study that explored the aftermath of the BP oil spill. The conclusion was that the spill “is unlikely to leave a lasting legacy on our views toward fossil fuels, environmental management, and energy use.” (Source.) Co-author Andrew Hoffman pointed out that no one ever “fully challenged the identity of the Obama administration*, the oil majors, or the American public and its dependence on fossil fuels [italics added]… The economy is still fuel-based and little serious opposition to continued offshore drilling can be expected.”
I know a lot of people ask, “Why does it matter?” It matters because this fossil fuel dependency is not just an environmental issue. It is political and economic, as well. Where does our oil come from? We get it from all over the world, often from countries that are unstable and downright dangerous. These countries include Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria. Again, this may not seem like a big deal, but let’s look at the consequences of buying oil from these countries^:
1. As a major contributor to the global demand for oil the United States is paying to finance and sustain unfriendly regimes.
2. Our demand drives up oil prices on the global market, which oftentimes benefits oil-producing nations that don’t sell to us.
3. The regimes and elites that economically benefit from rich energy resources rarely share oil revenues with their people, which worsens economic disparity in the countries and at times creates resource-driven tension and crises.
4. Our oil dependence will also be increasingly harder and more dangerous to satisfy. [America uses about 25% of the world's petroleum supply, and roughly half of that - give or take a few percentage points - is imported.] Without reducing our dependence on oil we’ll be forced to increasingly look to more antagonistic and volatile countries that pose direct threats to our national security.
So as you can see, our dependence on oil is not simply an environmental issue. It affects our economy, our foreign relations, our national security and even the lives of people living in these unstable regimes that we support with our oil-stained dollars.
What do we do next, is the question – and I’ll answer that in Part 3! Stay tuned!
*Please note that I do not intend for this quote to be taken as blame toward President Obama. I don’t believe that our country’s problems can ever rest solely in the hands of one person, nor do I think it is a constructive use of time and energy to blame politicians or bicker across party lines. This is a democracy and therefore, we are responsible for pushing for the changes we want to see.
^These are all direct quotes from this article.