Back on June 11, 2010, I noted that the Brits thought we were being rather hypocritical in our outrage over the BP Oil spill. If we were really all that concerned, argued the Brits, we would be more moderate in our consumption, have no love affair with the SUV and enact Pigou taxes on fuel consumption:

“[BP was] trying to fulfill our own reckless and irresponsible demands for cheap and plentiful energy. Anyone who is an energy consumer cannot ignore their contribution to what happened.

We can be a bit hypocritical in the US of A. We have $50k earners who bought $750k houses, then complained about Goldman Sachs; Walmart shoppers who buy 12 packs of tighty whiteys for $2.99 — then complains about job losses. Or the non voters (the majority of us) who complain about Congress. We energy consumers ought to realize that it is our demand that led to drilling in the GoM.

Its sure is much easier to blame BP, than to accept resposibility for our own role in the spill…”

-Oil Consumption Around the World

The pushback on this was fierce. The mere suggestion that Americans adopt European-style conservation was an outrage to some people. I suspect it is because most people (myself included) like a lifestyle supported by cheap oil. Significant lifestyle change is undesirable.

Where this sort issue becomes extremely fascinating to me is when we begin to rationalize the results of our behavior, and come up with explanations that are wanting. The results of  a recent Bloomberg poll show exactly those sorts of rationalizations:

Indeed, it turns out that the vast majority of Americans have those thoughts. They do not believe this was an inevitable result of pushing the energy exploration envelope to find cheap oil; Rather, to them, it was a freak accident:

“Most Americans oppose President Barack Obama’s ban on deepwater oil drilling in response to BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico spill, even as they hold the company primarily responsible for the incident.

Almost three-fourths, or 73 percent, say a ban is unnecessary, calling the worst oil spill in U.S. history a “freak accident,” according to a Bloomberg National Poll. Barely more than a third say they support drilling less than they did a few months ago. The BP rig sank in April. The administration issued a new moratorium this week after a court rejected a six-month one imposed in May . . .

Asked who was most to blame for the spill, 44 percent say BP, and 19 percent say lax federal regulations and oversight. One in five say no one is to blame.”

Think about that: 20% of those polled think this is nobody’s fault. And “8 in 10 of those questioned say BP shouldn’t be assessed penalties beyond payment for damages.” Of course, its no one’s fault when a freak accident occurs.

So much for the era of personal responsibility . . .


Oil Consumption Around the World (June 11, 2010)

Americans in 73% Majority Oppose Ban on Deepwater Oil Drilling
Kim Chipman
Bloomberg, July 15 2010

Category: Energy, Psychology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

41 Responses to “Lying to Ourselves About Oil”

  1. JustinTheSkeptic says:

    If it wasn’t for the marketing people of the world, “who know you better than you know you,” (one of my original quotes), sub-consciously exploiting the masses everywhere one turns, we wouldn’t be as self-serving, self-indulging. Where really does it all begin?

  2. dead hobo says:

    It’s pretty safe to say that the spill would probably not have happened if BP was not acting recklessly and incompetently in its work.

    How is that my fault?

  3. Last Liberal Standing says:

    This is the kind of discussion we SHOULD be having, but it’s very hard to find such a thing on a sustained basis. A big part of the problem is that, as you mention, we’re all addicted to extravagant oil usage. As addicts, we don’t want to talk about cutting back.

    I’m addicted, too. I like going where I want when I want. I like A/C, Internet access, processed food, and all the other conveniences that are “non-negotiable” elements of the American lifestyle. I don’t want to change my ways. . . .

    But I have to. We all have to. Thing is, will we continue hiding from even a serious conversation about it? I’m afraid we will.

    We’re hooked!

  4. Julia Chestnut says:

    See, that is where they are wrong. I would be happy to see energy priced at what it truly costs – the market would respond with measures to help people live in more sustainable ways. There are, however, a number of problems with that proposition that make it unlikely to occur until we hit some horrible, impenetrable wall. First, that enormous overhang of houses that we’re not selling and buying? McMansions – 3,500-foot monstrosities made with Chinese drywall and crappy finish work that are located in distant suburbs. Do we think that doing the sensible thing with regard to energy will help? Frankly, the enormous misallocation represented by those houses is a sunk cost, and we might as well just bulldoze them. But I really, really doubt that will occur.

    Second, there are a lot of people in this country who can’t afford energy now. We lack the social net that they have in Europe, so there are a lot of people who are already wearing parkas in the house in winter, and the situation would be infinitely worse if we moved precipitously to a regime for energy use that emphasized conservation through taxes.

    In short, the whole society is not set up for a move like that. Which is a lot of what is wrong with the society, not the move. I would love to see some of what Europe does well done here – but some parts of it are never going to be possible, if nothing else, due to the constraints of geography. Current Brits are no more responsible for the country they inherited (and any perceived virtues) than current Americans are for the country they interited (and any perceived faults). We have to work within the contraints we have, and it is going to be a major slog.

    But the Brits are hardly paragons of energy-conserving virtue. The Germans/Scandanavians are notorious energy tight-wads, not the Brits. And as far as that is concerned, it is entirely BP’s fault, enabled by the lousy, purposefully-useless circle jerk of regulatory oversight. As usual, the profits were privatized while the risks were public.

  5. krice2001 says:

    I’ll step in this time, Barry. It’s the same as Global Warming (or Global Climate Change). Lets’ see the logic: It CAN’T be us that are the problem. It’s gotta be a freak stroke of “nature”, it’s a natural rhythm of the earth’s climate that’s driving global temperatures up. That’s why I don’t have to take any responsibility for my carbon footprint because it has nothing to do with what I do or how much fossil fuel I use. Sounds good, right? It’s all so convenient – and with that logic I don’t have to change a thing I do. It’s so very comforting.

    This sort of logic appeals to all of us, me included. And it’s very easy to be cajoled into finding a way to feel good or at least a lot better about being able to do just what we’ve always been doing and blaming some force outside your control (nature, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives) than take personal responsibility for things yourself and have to change.

    It’s completely understandable but not so good for advancement or dealing with major problems.

  6. vitamin_n says:

    Once somebody figures out a good way to store electrical energy oil won’t be nearlyas much of a political issue. I’m looking forward to that day. And maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I figure the problem will be solved sooner that a lot of people think.

  7. drewburn says:

    It was obviously an accident, just not a freak accident. It was the result of poor controls/regulation. Other industries have detailed procedures, strictly enforced (mostly) and their safety records are exceptional. Airlines, for example, have an extremely low accident rate considering the number of miles flown, etc. The nuclear industry, ditto.

    BP simply took short cuts and were allowed to take risks that should be unacceptable. The costs of higher safety standards are neglible when compared to the cost of this spill alone.

  8. DD123 says:

    Let’s see if I have this straight:

    The spill happens.

    People are pissed. In “knee-jerk” fashion, they demand blood from BP.

    The honest and reflective among us, like “Barry and the Brits” point out the US hypocrisy on this tragedy. “We did bring it upon ourselves after all.” [The accused rapist's defense attorney, cross-examining the rape victim's choice of attire that night, nods with approval.]

    A month passes. Now comes the Bloomberg poll. Lo and behold: The demand for vengeance against BP seems to have waned.

    And now we have this post, which concludes with a slightly ironic, sarcastic statement:

    “And ’8 in 10 of those questioned say BP shouldn’t be assessed penalties beyond payment for damages.’ Of course, its no one’s fault when a freak accident occurs.

    “So much for the era of personal responsibility . . .”

    What, exactly is your point here?

    “It’s hypocritical to blame BP for this mess.
    At the same time, it’s hypocritical NOT to blame BP for this mess.
    I am so fascinated by the rationalizations of the stupid average American.”

    Yeah, OK Barry. So fascinating to observe those stupid average Americans and all their biases. So fascinating….

  9. Vesper says:

    The oil spill is directly attributable to lax regulation, poor decision making/cost-saving measures by BP (those cut corners really paid off, didn’t they!), and America’s oil addiction. It was not a freak accident. Safety precautions were overlooked and ignored. Regulation was nil. People can reason there way out of anything. It’s a spineless form of self-preservation. Except this time, it is at the expense of our food chain and many people’s livelihoods. I’m troubled by the state of the US these days. Where has personal responsibility/accountability gone?

    I’m not usually pessimistic, but with the lack of educated discourse on just about every problem were facing, lack of accountability and a ‘support your team or die’ (Dems, Reps, Tea P.s) mentality, I’m not sure we’re ready to deal with anything. Maybe it’d be better if we just watch season 65 of American Idol and buy the new ipad… long live marketing (I kid).

    Oh, and if you happen to be in London anytime soon, check out “The Deep” exhibit at the Natural History Museum. It will show you the wondrous undersea world that we are destroying by freak accident.

  10. JustinTheSkeptic says:

    Now you guys are getting my point – it is: I have to drive as big or bigger car than my neighbor drives, I have to eat as good or better than my neighbor does, I have to live in as big or bigger house than my neighbor does…fill in the blank, etc, etc. We have become a gluttinous society by way of marketing directing our desires, through knowingly minipulating our physical and psychological wants and desires if not overtly, subliminally. Stop the blame-game. It isn’t BP that is our problem it is our ignorance of what has really shaped and is shaping our “modern” society. Our system needs a giant overhaul…and I bet it is coming.

  11. JSchmid says:

    I don’t think BP should be assessed penalties beyond payment for damages since payment for damages should be enough motivation to make them clean up their act. Not to mention any additional penalties are equal to taxes and they will just go towards the green socialist progressive agenda and raise the price of gas for consumers.

  12. Trevor says:

    Barry said: So much for the era of personal responsibility . . .

    I’m surprised you haven’t seen the opposite, increasing trend over the past half century toward abdication of both personal and societal responsibility: doctors have to be perfect; school teachers should teach kids everything; why wasn’t the pothole on my street filled sooner; why are there insufficient regulations to ensure my electricity has no brownouts; why is there so much plastic in the north pacific gyre; why were there insufficient regulations for the banking industry; why didn’t the scientists know xyz about abc; the government should organise the oil cleanup (oh, right, you wanted smaller/no government); how did so many illegal immigrants get into my country and over such a long period; etc.; etc..

    Eventually, decades of spoiled living afforded largely by technological advances, inattention to detail and fact (because ‘others’ will do that), and abdication of personal and societal responsibility will come home to roost. It may not come in our lifetimes, but it’s not much further off. For now, however, entitlement without responsibility reigns far too often, and none of us acts entirely without self-interest, self-deception, or rationalisation. ‘Ya gets what ya pays for’ (in both effort and money).

    Wow, I’m gloomy, if realistic, this morning. ;-)

  13. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    “So much for the era of personal responsibility . . .”


    If you don’t mind, I’d like to take a stab at restating that:

    So much for the brief moment of pretense and hypocrisy that anyone should or would take personal responsibility for behavior(s) that might cost them anything, personally, in even the slightest way, regardless how egregious and obviously endangering to themselves and others the behavior in question might be . . .

    In our increasingly disassociated-from-reality culture, personal responsibility is a philosophical NIMBY.

  14. JSchmid says:

    Isn’t the US Government equally at fault for the spill since they allowed the drilling, told BP how they had to drill and build their equipment, they certified that the equipment and process was good and told them to go ahead. How many of the people in the government that have direct responsibility for this disaster have been fired?!?!

  15. gloppie says:

    You beat me to it, Trevor, I was going to mention the other responsibility, societal responsibility. Interestingly enough, societal responsibility is often a murky concept here in the U.S. of A. Most people are more concerned with their “Freedom”, or sometimes I hear talk about “Personal freedom”.
    Many touchy subjects, like say smoking in public, are touchy only because of the blur surrounding Freedom, Liberty, responsibility, societal or not, me myself and “the others”. Could it be that language is contributing to the issue ? After all, words -are- thoughts, at least according to some.
    Joseph Stromberg has a very good page about Freedom Vs. Liberty.
    Two words for one concept…. interesting. I guess I am fascinated by the “average” American too.

  16. farmera1 says:

    When we as a country elect leaders that say things like our standard of living is non-negotiable (Cheney), people won’t make any sacrifices let alone take any responsibility for anything like cutting energy use or global warming. Pricing energy based on true costs are you kidding me. Much better to let the market (woops that would be Saudi Arabia) determine energy costs. It’s so much easier to blame others for our stupidity.

    IMHO we’ve gone around the bend and are now ungovernable. Better to spend your time preparing than argue. Here’s an interesting read that attempts to tie the current out of control situation back to mountains of debt. Got to agree with the over all point.

  17. RW says:

    Degrees of separation.

    As societies grow more complex, individuals are increasingly sequestered from the consequences of their actions and the implications of their beliefs.

    In an attempt to make sense individuals form or create smaller groups, developing their own codes in the process, and this relieves the sense of detachment but increasingly sequesters the group from other groups who are doing the same thing.

    A code with rather trivial meaning in one subgroup (birth control for example) may have catastrophic implications for another but the other group can feel no sense of responsibility for that; it is not their meaning.

    With a failing fourth estate and virulent political struggles over the meaning of the remaining nationally recognized codes the prospects for broad national progress are not good.

  18. constantnormal says:

    @BR — following the brief fusillade of praise for your insight and clarity, I’m sure you know to prepare for the brickbats from the clueless majority that are so aptly described in your post.

    You can wear the epithets of “liberal” and “Obama-lover” proudly, knowing that they are delivered by those who wouldn’t recognize a data-driven approach even if it ran over them driving a fully-laden Hummer crammed to the bursting point with Rush Limbaughs (the extreme Republicrat version of the circus clown car), and sporting the bumper sticker that perfectly espouses the Obama approach: “What would Dubya do?”.

    Bear them no mind, and remember the words of that sage of human nature, John Kenneth Galbraith:

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
    ~ John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)

  19. farmera1 says:

    For those of you that think this is just a freak one off, you should read FORBES magazine (June 28, 2010). Big costly accidents are impossible to predict and they happen much more frequently than you might think after studying small accidents.

    The title of the article is IF YOU THINK THE OIL SPILL WAS BAD…

    “When it comes to catastrophes, history can tell you only so much. There is no smooth probability transition between $1 billion problems and $10 billion problems or $100 billion problems. Insurance companies call these accidents “fat-tail” events. By that they mean if you plot probabilities against accident size you do not get the rapid tapering off of odds found on the classic bell curve. In other words, giant accidents are not as rare as you might think after studying small accidents. Risks and costs are growing as businesses concentrate their activities or hold over swaths of the economy.”

    “The unforeseeable combination of cascading minor events that lead to a fat-tail catastrophe is what makes them so hard to predict.”

    The article goes on to discuss catastrophic failures of:
    -Nuclear Meltdown
    -Liquefied-Natural Gas Explosion
    -Chemical Plant Explosion
    -Dam Failure

    Big complex systems fail as a result of cascading minor events, and this happens a lot more often than you would think by studying small failures. In other words shit happens and when it happens in big complex systems the results are very bad indeed.

  20. d4winds says:

    “Rather, to them, it was a freak accident…Think about that: 20% of those polled think this is nobody’s fault.”

    Wall Street successfully sold the same “freak accident” & “nobody’s fault” line to that same public. The subsequent hue & cry has been not over the (ahem) policy response or over the white-washing of the gross negligence truth but instead over the bonus obscenities from supposedly salvation-needy firms.

  21. disconnect says:

    The 20% saying it’s nobody’s fault must be the same crew that inspired Rumsfeld’s “stuff happens” quote. “Oh well, sometimes oil wells blow up and discharge hundreds of millions of gallons of toxic crude into the Gulf of Mexico, what can you do.”

    Of course what we need to do is all of the above… reduce our consumption of oil drastically but at the same time ensure proper regulation and enforcement to stop this kind of “stuff” from happening again, or at least reduce the risk of it happening. It’s like any risky activity – do as little of it as you have to do, then make sure what you have to do is done as safely as possible.

    The sad part is that if this spill wasn’t enough to wake people up about the consequences of oil consumption, what will be?

  22. dad29 says:

    Of course, its no one’s fault when a freak accident occurs.


    I think there’s some issue-mixing going on here.

    It appears (from press reports and informed speculation) that BP was, in fact “at fault” for the mess, or at the very least was too aggressive in its procedures leading to the blowout–which could also be construed as “fault.”

    In that case, BP should pay for its transgression.

    However, the term “a freak accident” implies that: 1) BP did everything it was supposed to do, according to best practices (etc., etc., etc., yada) AND 2) something blew up anyway.

    Given those conditions, I submit that while BP should contribute to a cleanup, it has no legal obligation to do so. Accidents DO happen. Otherwise, one could postulate that the Bush Administration was “at fault” and “should pay” for 9/11–because, in fact, the Administration failed to defend the shores.

  23. WFTA says:

    To whom do we lie most often and most convincingly?

    The thing that for me that is most frustrating and mind-boggling about America’s use of energy is that we ignore so much low-hanging fruit of easily conserved gallons, watts, Btu’s. I’m convinced we could cut energy consumption 25% with no significant lifestyle reductions.

  24. seneca says:

    Ritholtz: “So much for the era of personal responsibility . . ..”

    This is a deep predicament akin to the “tragedy of the commons” problem. If I burden myself by minimizing my personal use of fossil fuels, others will consume that much more, with nothing gained overall. Consider this example: suppose a group of virtuous people begin to commute to work by bus to conserve fuel. Their decision lowers traffic congestion and, on the margin, lowers gas prices, thereby rewarding the energy profligates who’d rather commute alone in their four ton gas guzzlers. An individual making a personal decision to conserve energy in the current framework accomplishes nothing aside from possibly making himself feel morally superior.

  25. wunsacon says:

    seneca, that’s exactly my excuse. I’m *not* going to engage in useless self-sacrifice.

    Unfortunately, many right-wingers implicitly call me a hypocrite, say, for keeping my thermostat at 68 deg. during the summer or for not biking to work. It’s not hypocrisy. I’m saying I’m willing to pay more for energy so long as the higher unit fees are charged to everyone. That’s applying the same standard to everyone.

  26. wunsacon says:

    BR, those statistics, the ones you emphasized in your last paragraph, are pretty dismal.

  27. b_thunder says:

    every single one of those who say that no one is to blame are either hardcore GOP supporters, or GOP supporters masking as Rand Paul “libertarians” or Tea Partiers. they also feel that laws such as clean water/air act are unconstitutional, that corporations should operate without any regulations, that and that everyone has a right to own everything up to and including a bazooka (real, not Hank Paulson’s), a 120mm cannon, a tank and perhaps a tactical nuke (2nd amendment), that humans and dinosaurs lived together….
    They’re absolutists. Technically. In reality however they’re morons. For examply, they don’t think about their kids dying of not-any-longer-rare form of cancer caused by contaminated air/water/food, but when it happens they won’t let us call it a “freak accident.” Except that everyone else’s kids will have the same cancer, if only those 20% get another shot at power.
    What i’m saying is that thinking, intelligent and responsible members of the society should NEVER debate such issues with absolutists, ideologues and morons – it only gives observers an impression that their views have some merit. (which they do not)

  28. VennData says:

    What is the GOP solution to getting us out from under foreign oil, permanently?

    Drilling is a temporary fix a few dozen new wells that won’t mean anything in the millions of barrels we consume daily Invading just makes the foreign companies controlled by a different set of folks who still charge us and arm and a leg. Tax cuts for Exxon et al haven’t gotten us off foreign oil. …oh and “No” isn’t a solution either.

    When are you numskulls that are so emotionally caught up in GOP rhetoric going to demand that they provide a realistic, permanent solution and work with the other party to implement it?

  29. Yawright says:

    Yes, oil users are to blame. People deserve the government they have and all. But as in most things in the real world, blame is shared amongst many players and the percentage of blame for each can be assessed. But so is BP.

    BP’s horrible safety track record make it hard to place the lion’s share of the reposibility anywhere but in the hands of BP. It would be different if evidence didn’t show major shortcuts and horrible decisions being made in this situation and in most of BPs operations globally. Statistically speaking, BP has been responsible for more preventable “accidents” than all the other oil companies combined by a factor of 6. That is so beyond statistical significance it isn’t even worth running the numbers.

    If the government wants to discourage an activity, it has the ability to tax it. I, as a voter, have supported such a tax for the last 20 years. If it would have been implimented in the 80′s, we’d have seen usgae drop significantly.

    But BP would still have seen drilling deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

  30. beaufou says:

    For the spill, you’d have to blame BP for negligence.
    In a larger scale, we can all blame ourselves for being addicted to oil but we don’t have many alternatives.
    Even if we all buy smaller cars and not use as much energy in our houses, present technology is outdated due to the lack of investment in the future from one administration to another.
    We live in a permanent state of destructive financial growth with no vision for what could soon be a point of no return.
    For those who remember “the limits of growth”, I think we might want to take a step back and examine exactly what are the consequences of our present actions.,club_of_rome_revisted.pdf
    (this is not the actual thing, it is a updated review of the content).

    We will eventually have to bite the bullet, or our children, but it is imperative that we stop this childish behavior soon, at the top, in the media and in our personal lives.

    For the clean up, make BP pay for it and more if anyone feels like it, but you can’t possibly pay your way out of this kind of disaster, money is a thing man invented to barter, nature is very real.
    Will we see another round of bogus regulations on offshore drilling this time, with no hope of real prevention?

  31. DL says:

    I would be all in favor of a large tax on gasoline, if we could trust the politicians to make it “revenue-neutral” (i.e., cut taxes somewhere else to make up for it). Obama is about the last person on earth I would trust to come up with a revenue-neutral tax on anything.

    But even if we had a $10-per-gallon tax on gasoline, the odds of a drilling accident wouldn’t have been substantially reduced as a result.

  32. Darmah says:

    You can trace much of American policy, especially foreign policy to oil. Like the formation of United States Africa Command to protect oil in Africa (see

    We did great on conservation from the oil shocks until the minivan and SUV was introduced — which were classified as trucks to avoid car CAFE standards and further maintained by a Congress that froze the CAFE standard year after year.

    And @Justin is spot-on with his marketing comments. These vehicles were heavily marketed (US manufactures basically couldn’t compete in the passenger car market). Then when demand was driven up, manufacturers claimed they couldn’t sell more cars because people wouldn’t buy them. Clever.

    And how BP cannot be blamed for this fiasco is beyond me. While lax regulation may have been an enabler, it was BP’s decision to cut corners, push beyond industry safety standards, be absolutely unprepared for a spill, file non-meaningful safety reports, mislead on flow rate, dump hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersant, delay and deny compensation, etc. etc.

  33. bear_in_mind says:

    Great topic and excellent discourse! I think the meta-point Barry is making is that WE ALL are engaging in denialism and hypocrisy when we don’t acknowledge that many of our choices are feeding the monstrosity that is destroying both our economic base and environment. It’s as if we’re defaulting to a mindet of: “Well, if a corporation doesn’t provide it for us, what options are left? Guess it’s not my problem.” I suspect in ten years we’ll look back and say, “That thinking was soooo 2009.”

    @seneca & wunsacon: You’re engaging in self-defeating, if not relativist, thinking when you excuse yourself from taking responsibility because the ‘other’ guy is a wastrel. You also negate the beneficial impact of your actions upon the decisions and actions of others.

    @farmera1: There’s a distinction between unforeseeable or under-calculated outcomes versus KNOWINGLY taking oversized risks to maximize profit and then treating the resulting damages as an “oops” moment. There’s evidence to suggest criminality but we’ll likely not see charges filed unless they can pin the responsibility on one, or several, specific individuals.

    @dead hobo: Opposite side of Farmera1’s coin. Agreed, blatant short-cuts appear to have been taken and the civil and/or criminal responsibility for that should rest with offending parties. Yet, we’re left with the damage incurred to the environment which no corporation can rectify. So if we’re going to take unlimited American consumption as the default modus operandi, what shall be our forward course? Uber-regulation of the oil industry? Add excise taxes of $20.00+ per barrel to fund alternative energy options? Go full-throttle to locate a hospitable planet for our grand-children to settle?

  34. willid3 says:

    as many have noted, the BP debacle was self inflicted, caused by arrogance. this is the equivalent of flying a commercial jet, and not checking the engines, and then wondering why it crashed when the engines failed.
    while we could and can, and should do much better with the energy we get out oil (if for no other reason that is is finite source for that use. and it takes a long time to generate more oil. and a lot of the conditions that created in it the first place, don’t exist any more). and even if every car in the US stopped using oil, we still would need to import oil, we don’t have that much oil, and can’t drill to get that much, and we really don’t know what oil is here any more. in last years drill mania, every body said just drill, it will happen, problem, all of the potential oil spots, are just that potential, we haven’t even explored there yet, and geologist think there is oil there only because it has some of the physical characteristics that exist where oil does, of the coast of Africa no less. and while the US uses the most oil in the world, we also have the biggest economy in the world too, and we tend to travel the longest distances of the developed (and semi-developed countries). so unless we want to shrink the US economy, and eliminate suburbs, and maybe a few of the larger cities, the only way to reduce consumption, is to improve efficiency. but to do that we need the technology to accomplish it, and some one to incentive’s for consumers to do so. the technology is almost there, we just haven’t done any thing about the later. if we set up gas taxes to have cost goals for a gallon of gas (say $3) to start, and then up it from there say every 5 years of so, we might create the incentives for consumers to get on board. and if we don’t do that, the way oil is priced will do it for us, but in unpredictable fashion. and cost of gas can easily go up .50 in a few weeks time, without any help from any thing else

  35. yuan says:

    Some americans are not in denial when it comes to energy. I use fewer petrochemicals than your cat and yet live a comfortable and active life.

  36. formerlawyer says:

    Short take:

    Western economies are based on cheap oil. Adjusted for inflation, oil has been relatively cheap and consistently so (absent some aberrations like OPEC in the 1970s) for most of the 20th and 21st century.

    This cheap oil drives western economies – it is cheaper to transport food, commodities and goods long distances than it is to grow, extract or manufacture them locally. Export of manufacturing jobs to China, exporting coking coal and iron ore to Korea to make imported steel, importing fruits and flowers from central America, large farm factories etc. etc. – all trace themselves to this one factor. Mining in the United States for rare earths for example has seen a precipitous decline so much that China now controls much of the rare earths and strategic minerals. Some experts estimate that this capacity cannot be re-constructed in the United States within the next 15 years.

    The era of “cheap oil” is going to end. Not necessarily as consequence of the debatable “peak oil” but because of the ever growing demand of developing countries for oil.

    Like the United States, much of China’s recent foreign policy initiatives in Africa for example are resource driven.

    This does not even take into account “global climate change”.

    The transition from cheap oil is going to be very rough on all sectors of the economy. There will be winners and losers.

  37. Andy T says:


    You’re trying to present those poll #s as something we should be “astonished” and disgusted by….

    I don’t understand what you’re getting out with this whole missive.

    So what? 20% of people thought it was a freak accident caused by nobody? Yeah? And?

    Generally speaking, accidents are always preventable and human error is always to blame….”in general.” But, once in awhile bad things occur….freak shit happens…which is why you have insurance.

    It’s no surprise to me that only 1/5 people think nobody is to blame….

    When the earth rumbles or there is chaotic activity sub-surface that causes something “different” to go down…who is to blame?

    Sure, BP could have done a lot of things differently that would have yielded a different result, and they’re probably liable for everything, but it’s easy to see how these poll results turned out….

  38. w says:


    Thank you for this refreshing analysis.

    The problem (not just in the US) is today’s culture of entitlement that has infected every facet of society: no one is responsible for anything, everyone has a right to the lifestyle they chose.

    There will be a day of reckoning someday as this is not sustainable.

  39. Lydia L. P. says:

    I have read everybody’s comments, by some very intelligent people, I presume. I’m not really in the mood to go on and on intellectually.
    What I will say (drawing on personal experience) we did not learn a lesson about the consumption of fossil fuel for our vehicles, at least not 30 years ago during the 70′s when there was actually a purposeful withdrawal of it (petro fuel) from the market, for higher prices.
    People had to actually plan for a visit to the gas station to fill up their vehicles.
    How would you like to have to plan to get up at 4:00am, to go wait in line for an hour to fill up your vehicle before going to work, just so you could have the privilege of driving just to get to work?
    Even worse if you couldn’t do it in the morning, how about getting out of work at 5:00pm and not setting foot in the door till 7:00pm just because you need gas?
    You would have thought that, that might have created a few “Red Flags” for the future.
    Even after two years ago mostly winter/spring/summer of 2008 when people were complaining about having to pay $4.00 to $5.00 a gallon (at least here in certain parts of the US) for gas, that we would stop doing this.
    But no the price of gas came down, and people sold their big SUV’s during the clunker pay back program.
    Yeah, were working on developing electric cars, but as most of you have read there is still a huge amount of controversy over how well that’s going to work as well.
    We will have to build charging stations all over the country/world, and getting rid of old batteries could be just another toxin to the environment issue.
    Oh well!
    I like the idea of solar power, but that has it’s controversy as well…………