From the Editor

Addicted to Oil

by Carolyn Chase

could hardly believe my ears when oil man President George W. Bush uttered the truth that 'fesses up to our #1 biggest security problem – the one that underlies the vast majority of both national and global security problems: our “addiction to oil.” This acknowledgment was a very long time coming.

    Now that the establishment has taken the first step by acknowledging our biggest problem, what's next? Now the hard work begins. Oil Addicts Anonymous, at the national and global level, is going to be a rocky road. Addicts do not willingly nor easily change. It is no surprise that the existing policies are upside-down when it comes to evolving our cheap oil-intensive economies and attitudes.

    Politics is a trailing indicator, not a leading one. As with addicts, politicians only do what they are pushed to do by those they listen to. The actions needed to reinvent our energy infrastructure must be acknowledged by the sectors that have to change. That change will not come from the top. After all, we know the top is run by pushers. The rest of us must do our part.

    The design of the energy systems of the 19th and 20th centuries – while creating great wealth and progress – now underlie an amazing cataclysm of ills, beginning with our national and economic security. Global warming, all forms of air pollution, and many forms of water pollution and food security all have components related to our fossil-fuel-based energy infrastructure. In sum, we are burning up the planet without replenishing it sufficiently.

    For those doubters who believe global climate change is something cooked up by the liberal elite at trouble-making universities, an overwhelming amount of data has come in recently, coupled with a better understanding than ever about the circulation of the oceans.

    Man-made systems can be re-engineered and re-imagined over time. It is less clear that we can re-engineer the fundamental natural systems we depend upon.

    Our oil dependence is staggering. The US is the world's largest oil user by more than three times the second largest user, China. We use 85 million barrels per day. Ninety percent of world transport is oil-dependent; all petrochemicals are produced from oil; 99 percent of our food relies on oil in some way; 95 per cent of lubricants are oil-based. Throughout the lives of everyone present, oil has been an increasingly abundant and cheap resource.

    The good news is that change appears to be finally sinking in for more and more sectors. An advanced-design wind turbine can produce as much energy as an oil well. Japanese engineers have designed a refrigerator than uses only 1/8th the power of others. South Korea, once treeless, now has 65% forest cover. More and more “zero waste” concepts are being applied by business. Even Wal-Mart recently opened an experimental “greener” superstore in Texas.

    Almost everything we need to build a new economy has already been done in one or more countries. All we need is the individual and collective will to ramp it up.

    For Earth Day this year, take our theme to heart: What are earth are we doing? We're consuming more than we are restoring and recycling.

    And then answer the next question: What are earth are you doing?