Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Oil, Responsibility, and the American Dream

a reponse to the NYTimes Magazine feature article on Peak Oil

Dear editor,

My sincere thanks for the candid piece about the future (or lack thereof) of oil (New York Times Magazine). I am disheartened by accounts of anger and hostility directed at gas stations recently noted in an AP story. I would cite two deficiencies in the nation’s ability to properly inform its populace. The mainstream media seems reluctant to prepare consumers for this reality until the Bush Administration gives some indication to do so. The Times stands out as a worthy exception to this subterfuge.

Secondly, we should focus attention to our spiritual leaders for guidance. The Judeo-Christian texts have a recurrent theme of unrighteousness followed by wrath of God, followed by redemption or salvation for those who honored God during the unrighteousness. It is easy to see elements of antagonistic fundamentalist “Christian” leaders who suggest the US forcefully control other nations’ oil supplies – there’s no shortage of attention on these false prophets. But what we’re lacking as a nation is the compassion and mercy that will be necessary to see us through these times of tribulations – when angered by gas prices, don’t take it out on your neighbor!

The times are upon us when we need real spiritual guidance to show us the way. There are many ecumenical movements that recognize this and are creating real solutions, but they are not getting the proper attention from the media. Perhaps because the message of less consumption is not what people want to hear. No one wants to be told they can’t have their gasoline for $1.80. This is why we have aggressive motorists taking their fuel frustration out on others.

Sadad al-Husseini, the former Aramco executive says it is consumers, not producers who are to blame. This is only half the story - It would be entirely possible for producers to mandate, “for every barrel we produce for you today, we’re going to set aside one barrel for your children and one barrel for your grandchildren.” How could someone argue with that? The producers are equally to blame - although their children could profit enormously tomorrow when the barrel of oil is worth three times as much, they are choosing to meet a reckless demand so they can profit today.

The baby-boom generation and their parents have an insatiable appetite for personal comfort and wealth perhaps in part tied to the “American Dream,” and coupled with the notion of modern living through petro-chemistry. It is certainly up to religious and moral leaders to show us the error of our ways. The immense selfishness of consumers who believe they’re entitled to all the oil they want, and producers, who profit by giving it to them, will be our downfall.

The great will in our nation at war to make personal sacrifices is gone. Supposedly there’s a war on terror but Americans are not being led to do what is right for our energy independence – the media and our moral leaders are complicit in this failure. Every time we fill up the tank, a little bit of money heads towards religious extremists – Christian and Muslim, and they certainly want our money to finance their crusades and jihads. This county is becoming frazzled by greed and religious extremism, it’s past time for moderation. We must seek to foster compassion, sacrifice, and unity and address the real issues before us – the survival of our children. There’s a story about Abraham who went up to the mountain because God told him to sacrifice his son. God was testing him.

The alternatives to foreign oil are here in this country and they involve reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. While the jury is still out on the efficiencies of biofuels, we need to look at transportation infrastructure shifts to railroads and away from automobiles. Coupled with transportation and smart growth, we should emphasize local, sustainable farming, which will reduce food transportation costs. Alternative transportation, better mileage, and increased emission standards will all help. Thank goodness some of the states are getting it. It’s up to our moral leaders and the media to work together to pass this test.
Let’s pray God can see us through.


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