Our personal American argument with oil resources
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 22:09
Oil is the energy that allows modern society to thrive. Unfortunately, it is non-renewable, meaning once it runs out, it’s gone. In 2010, Russia discovered a massive oil field in East Siberia. The deposit was said to hold at least 150 million metric tons of oil (around 1.1 billion barrels), and for Russia, the world’s leading oil exporter, this was certainly a boon. The world rejoiced at this new discovery, while simultaneously decrying oil and its hazards to the planet, pollution and energy efficiency. The United States, in fact, seems to be the prime example of; this two-faced argument. At the same time that we call for more efficient, clean energies, we are elated to know that there is more oil in the world to sustain us for a little longer.
The reality is that oil is not going to be in the future much longer, or at least it cannot be if the human race is going to survive the way it has thus far. Oil is like an infection to us. Instead of seeking treatment, we chose to ignore the problem, despite knowing that oil will run out. We consume it rapidly: the United States holds only 5 percent of the world’s populace, but consumes 25 percent of its oil. On a daily basis, that average American uses more than twice the oil of those in the European Union, and every year our country consumes 7.6 billion barrels. That makes Russia’s discovery seem a bit less massive, I suppose. That’s all right, though, because while Russia exports 6 percent of its total oil to the Americas (with 5 percent going only to the United States), it provides only 4 percent of our total oil imports. So we basically import more oil than Russia can export, from all over the world.
There is, however, good news. Today, energy is even more at the forefront of everyone’s mind, especially in a political sense, and several steps have been taken to foster alternate energy, such as tax incentives and the Energy Star program, which labels devices that use 20 percent to 30 percent less energy than is required by government standards. Even our rising gas prices, which are constantly lamented, are a positive sign of change. European markets saw the prices we are facing (around $4 a gallon) long ago, and this forced them to have tighter regulations on vehicle efficiency, which is necessary to wean us off oil. After all, automobiles in general account for 60 percent of oil use, with most of that being personal vehicles. As prices go up, there is more and more reason to look to improving sustainable, alternative energy.
However, the fight for freedom from oil is a personal one; as we have seen, there is little the government can actually do when it comes to demanding better technology and cleaner fuel from companies that rely on oil. People naturally resist change, and we as a society have been in the grip of fossil fuels for so long that their depletion seems a distant problem. “Oh, leave that to the next generation,” we seem to be saying, as our predecessors said of us. But it is within our power, individually, to advance technologies and implement smart energy-saving procedures. Whether it is something costly that will save you in the end, like buying solar panels, an electric car or fuel cells, or simple things like relying more on natural light, putting bubble wrap over your windows in winter to save on heat or using PVC pipes and glass bottles to make a greenhouse, it doesn’t matter. In an age when the inner workings of technology and inventions are unknown to many, everyone should aspire to be a maker. Do things that will affect your life in an eco-friendly way. If enough people do that, we won’t need the government to tell us one day that we need to invest in green energy. We will tell them that, as a government by and for the people, and they will listen to us.