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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
More collateral damage in our insatiable love affair with oil:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced plans to collect indoor air samples from homes downstream of an Exxon Mobil oil spill that’s leaked as much as 42,000 gallons of crude oil beneath Montana’s Yellowstone River. The Exxon Mobil Pipeline Company initially downplayed the incident saying it would only affect 10 miles of the river, but state officials say the spill has already stretched more than 240 miles to near the North Dakota border. Local residents have raised concerns over health risks and reported symptoms including nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath.
Burst pipes, exploding wells, and wrecked tankers are all-too-common occurrences in our incessant quest to produce greater and greater quantities of oil. Such events reek havoc on ecosystems and the health of local residents, but the underlying issue — our undying addiction to oil — seems beyond the bounds of public debate.
The notion of transitioning from destructive fossil fuels to much more pragmatic renewable energy sources is immediately dismissed as being idealist and naive, and far beyond our current technological prowess. Yet by failing to even allow the issue to be subject to a full, open, public discussion, we create a self-fulfilling prophesy. It may indeed be impossible to switch to renewable energy sources with our current technological means, but by refusing to divert more resources to the development of sustainable energy, we ensure that the status quo remains unchanged.
If we ended our wars throughout the Muslim world and diverted all related funds – including our indefensibly bloated $700 billion Pentagon budget – to the development of renewable energy sources, we could likely be off fossil fuels by the end of the decade. It is not an issue of technological impediments, but rather one of will. Even the most pessimistic studies have confirmed that virtually all energy needs could be met through wind, solar and geothermal sources; the only thing preventing us from making the transition is a stubborn, Luddite resistance to change.
Why do we see events like the BP disaster and latest Exxon Mobile spill and simply accept them as necessary evils in the struggle to sustain a broken society? Rather than accepting the bogus premise that oil is a requirement for modern civilization, why not question whether our energy needs can be met in other ways?
The cost of gas is crippling the economy, yet not enough people are demanding meaningful change. I recently contacted a local car dealership to inquire about purchasing the Nissan LEAF, a car which is rated as the most fuel efficient vehicle on the market. The LEAF is purported to get an astounding 106 miles per gallon, which would save hundreds of dollars per month in fuel costs. Yet the LEAF is not currently available in any dealership in New England, and likely will not be until mid-2012. I was told that I might be able to apply for one later this year, in the hopes that I might obtain one some time next year.
Why is it that the technology to move away from gas-guzzling vehicles already exists, yet is not readily available to a public which desperately craves it? Why aren’t all the major car manufacturers churning out model after model of hybrid or all-electric vehicles, in every fathomable shape, size and style? Why cling to ways merely because that’s how it’s always been done?
The capitalist system is exhibiting a clear sign of failure: the market demands fuel-efficient vehicles, but the corporate manufacturers are refusing to meet that demand. It is evident that other considerations are being weighed behind the scenes – various corporate interests are colluding to maintain a stranglehold on economic and political power, and the masses are suffering as a result.
But hey, Exxon Mobile and other corporations are recording the largest profits in history – what does it matter if we’re paying $4 a gallon and the climate is dramatically shifting? Isn’t capitalism grand?