Although solid as a continent, America floats on a sea of oil, for building roads and moving cars; for heating homes; for pumping water; for cultivating, fertilizing and harvesting fields; for making clothes and housewares; for trucking food and goods. Were oil gone tomorrow, we’d soon die.
As America’s domestic oil supply has been used up, most oil is now brought from far nations at gunpoint. American foreign policy is increasingly driven by oil demands. Any nation which does not provide oil to us on our terms (contracts, rates, pipelines, shipping) may become an evil enemy (Saddam Hussein, Taliban, Chavez, Mossadegh, etc). Even the worst dictator is tolerated (Hussein, Shah of Iran, Burmese junta, Taliban, Milosevic, Nazarbayev, Abacha, Noriega, etc) until they threaten the flow of oil.
Since an American’s conveniences demand many times more oil, and since expanding human population competes for less oil, the U.S. must enforce control of oil ever more brutally. Lethal embargoes, bombings, invasions, human rights abuses, government coups and puppet regimes are imposed.
Thus, in effect, turning the ignition key has become a vote for war. Buying groceries from supermarkets rather than local farmers, when available, votes for war. Shopping at malls for trinkets votes for war.
Ithacans are generous, knowledgeable and dedicated, yet we shouldn’t regard ourselves liberal, anti-war or progressive while indulging the benefits of empire, without restraining personal dependence on oil. Those determined that “Bush Must Go!” need to know that Cars = Bush (50% of imported oil use) and that the combative core of Bushism would survive his defeat.
Likewise no parent can claim intelligently to love their child unless they work to create a civilization which will surpass this crisis, by creating regional economies which thrive with least oil.
Solutions surround us, and each of us has a role. There are everyday solutions like biking, walking, carpooling, farmer’s markets, installing energy efficiencies, recycling and repairing, enjoying creating rather than consuming.
There are community solutions like bike lanes, buses and trollies, street reclamation, insulation buying clubs, cogeneration, re-use centers, urban agriculture, food processing centers, sewerage reform, local currencies, quiet neighborhood industry and retail, regional stock markets, import replacement programs.
Although there are federal solutions– funding the above rather than oil wars– Congress is dominated by oil money. Democrat John Kerry’s energy plan, relying on wind, biofuels, rail and greater auto efficiency, are necessary beginnings that would carry us less rapidly to dead ends than George Bush’s Armageddon Plan. Swing state voters should back Kerry, yes, while remembering that today both candidates must serve America’s oil-soaked consumer culture. They must fight for our oil (Kerry endorsed Iraq invasion 10/9/02) as long as we demand it. Blood for Oil will flow regardless who is elected.
That’s why leadership to create peaceful abundance begins at home. Our daily lives are the most powerful votes.
By Paul Glover.
Glover is author of “Ithaca Power,” a comprehensive guide to Ithaca’s fuel supply system (1988).