Sunday, August 31, 2008

Addicted to Oil?

What does it mean to say that we are “addicted to oil?” That we should not pay $700 billion a year to import oil from foreign countries, especially those that oppose American interests. That we should not pollute the air and contribute to global warming? That we should live in densely populated urban centers instead of sprawling suburbs? That we should develop alternative sources of renewable energy? The notion of addiction implies, as it does for narcotics, that the consumption of oil is habit forming, that we are compulsively and physiologically dependent on it, even though it is an essential element in transportation, heating, and manufacturing.

The metaphor of addiction to oil applies equally to food, water, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care. Each is an important element of life. Why aren’t we badgered to reduce our addiction to them? Perhaps it has to do with the interests of those who would benefit economically and politically from substituting other sources of energy for our heavy consumption of oil. It is difficult to formulate a sensible national energy policy when our political language treats oil as if it were a narcotic instead of a vital economic resource.

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