We need to use less oil so we can keep using oil longer
This bizarre Jeff Jacoby column argues that we shouldn’t hurt oil’s feelings. He quotes:
Americans consume oil not because they are “addicted’’ to it, but because it enriches their lives, making possible prosperity, comfort, and mobility that would have been all but unimaginable just a few generations ago… “Whether measured by weight or by volume, refined oil products provide more energy than practically any other commonly available substance, and they provide it in a form that’s easy to handle, relatively cheap, and relatively clean.”
And you can make gum out of it!
Crude oil refining also makes possible plastics, synthetic fibers, lubricants, waxes, asphalt. “Other products made from petroleum,’’ notes the US Energy Information Administration, “include ink, crayons, bubble gum, dishwashing liquids, deodorant, eyeglasses, CDs and DVDs, tires, ammonia, [and] heart valves.’’
A miraculous substance indeed.
In fairness to Jacoby, lots of environmentalists do talk about oil in the way that the book of Leviticus talks about blood. On the other hand, they have good reason to: the extraction and production of oil-based products is tremendously destructive.
Even if you don’t care at all about the environmental damage caused by the petroleum industry, however, and Jacoby doesn’t seem to, you should still support efforts to reduce our oil consumption. In fact, the more miraculous and unique you believe the properties of oil are, the more you should support this reduction. It’s true that petroleum combines energy density with portability at room temperature and pressure in a way that no other substance does. It actually is something of a miraculous fuel, and it has powered our economic growth for close to a century now. There’s no fuel that even comes close to replacing kerosene and naphtha as jet fuel. What’s astonishing is that we know that it’s irreplaceable and we know that there’s a quite finite amount of it easily extractable, and yet we continue to use it with utter profligacy. We pave our roads with it. We drink from bottles made out of it. Will we someday be unable to fly across the country because we couldn’t bring ourselves to stop paving over greenfields with petroleum so that our petroleum-gulping SUVs could park in front of our petroleum-clad houses?