Sunday, June 6, 2010

So easy to despair...

The oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico is really a tragedy beyond our imaginations. Each day that goes by without success at stemming the flow of oil seems to add layers of complexity to the solutions of this disaster. The long reaching implications of this disaster will be felt for a decades. The photos of the spill are surreal. The sheen on the water menacing. The photos of oil drenched birds just devastating. The live feed is a horror that can only happen in this age instant news gathering. The potential for this disaster to spread beyond the gulf is great. This really is a game changer.

And yet this game changer is the result of a failure of leadership that extends long before a blow out preventer failed. We can point to a failed government response to the spill. A failure of leadership at the head of BP. A failure of government to create an energy policy for this country that weans us off of oil. But really it is a failure of leadership to convey to the public at- large the challenges we will face in our daily lives if we do not powerdown.

Every Monday, I write my Independence Days Challenge update. I participate in this challenge for several reasons. It keeps me on track throughout the growing season. It creates habits in our lifestyle that are seasonal. It easily points the way to incorporate self-sufficiency in my life. But the real reason that I participate in this challenge is because of Peak Oil. Oil and all it by-products touch everything in our lives that we touch. EVERYTHING. The gas for our cars is the most obvious. The food on our table is so dependent on oil, it is scary to ponder what would happen if its means of getting to my table were disrupted for even a couple of days. But everything from the toothbrush we use in the morning, to the band aid we put on our child's skinned knee, to the pillow we lay our head on at night has found its way into our home by the power of oil.

We have no short term memory in this country. It was just two years ago that the price for a barrel of oil reached the unimagined price of 147.00. Gasoline was 4.50 a gallon in my neighborhood. It took nearly 40.00 to fill the tank of our Subaru Legacy station wagon. We managed to stretch that tank of gas by practicing conservation. But what I remember most about that time was the inflation of food prices at the grocery store. It cost more for the food to find its way to the shelves of the store and that increase was passed on to my bottom line. At the time independent truckers were parking their trucks because they could not afford to pay for the diesel for their tanks. The fear that many residents of Maine would be without heat was very real. Many homes in Maine are still dependent on heating oil.

The geyser in the the gulf is tragic. But when taken in the context of peak oil it seems inevitable. The easy oil is no longer as easy to get to. The technology to pump every last drop out of the wells in the oil fields in the US has assured that we are using it all. The countries that have the remaining easy oil are not in friendly neighborhoods or their own supply is in decline. Boondoggles such as biofuels that use FOOD for fuel or shale oil whose energy investment does not equal its energy return are last ditch efforts to keep this train on its rails. We are not the only country that wants to use the remaining easy oil. So we drill in deep water horizons. We argue whether to open ANWR. We go to war to secure our dependence on oil. We talk of alternatives as though the infrastructure to switch our energy economy were as simple as a few solar panels and hybrid cars. When what we really should be doing is re-localizing, producing more of our own food, living in self-sustaining communities.

After hearing this piece on Morning Edition, I think we have a way to go....


Wendy said...

That NPR story is so aggravating, and I see the same things, and I've gone through exactly the same emotions I hear being conveyed in your post: frustration, anger, and sorrow - all three at the same time.

I'm frustrated, because no matter how much I talk myself blue in the face people don't listen. In fact, I've come to recognize this glazed over look and an almost imperceptible backing away from me when I start talking about such things.

And anger, because "they" just don't get that they do have choices (and control!), but it means making some HUGE lifestyle changes. I'm so sick of hearing the but I can't excuses for refusing to make changes. Sometimes it takes real effort not to grab these people and try to shake some sense into them.

And sorrow, because this disaster in the Gulf and this war in the Middle East could have been avoided *if* we had listened and paid attention, back during the 1970's oil embargo, and changed the way we do things when we still had more options. Nixon, Carter, and Bush ALL said, in effect, we have to end our dependence on oil, but by the time Bush got up there, he was doing that Willy Wonka no, stop, don't, knowing that he could tell us, but we'd refuse to listen until we ended up a bloated blue berry like Violet Beauregard.

This oil spill is going to devastate the economy in one of the poorest regions of this country, and it will be like throwing a pebble in the water - eventually, the ripples will reach us, too.

Anyway, that's my long way of saying, you're not alone, even though it may feel that way sometimes :).

Kathy said...

I know that I don't do my absolute best to be less dependent on oil and all its products, but I do make small efforts regularly.

Tick me off in the 'disgusted' column. The Big G continues to lead us down the road of destruction and we, with our conveniences and technology continue to suck it all up.

'We' being a general term.