That Oil Was For Us

While lamenting the state of the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, my wife pointed out that, as consumers of oil, we’re all a party to it. I seemed so obvious that I was embarrassed that it hadn’t occurred to me earlier. Most things in my life – the heat in my home and office, the gas in my car, and the plastics in so many of the good we consume – are all derived from petroleum products.

I don’t know if any of the oil I use (either directly or indirectly) comes from BP, or from the Gulf of Mexico. If anything, though, this lack of knowledge makes my role even worse.

Of course, if rules were broken (or the rules were inadequate), we should do our best to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen again. Still, we can’t eschew our own role in creating the type of economic and regulatory environment where this type of of disaster can happen. They were drilling that oil for us.


8 thoughts on “That Oil Was For Us

  1. Well, yes, they were drilling the oil for us.

    But it’s not exactly like we are equal partners in this enterprise: various industries – automobile, oil, petrochemical, household products – have pummeled us with relentless advertising, marketing, and public relations messages over the last century to reinforce the “oil = good” and “oil = invaluable” and “oil = happiness” messages.

    Yes, we’re active players in this charade inasmuch as we have free will and are under no obligation to believe what we’re told.

    But it’s awfully hard to resist.

  2. I agree with Peter – and would add that the guilt I feel about oil has more to do with its general polution from use/production, than from a disaster caused by breaking/bending rules to maximize profit by some company. That would be like me feeling guilty about eating meat becasue some butcher is busted abusing animals – it’s not my eating meat that caused some jackass company to perform animal abuse.

  3. Since you are a designer, you might consider the agendas of the monopolies that supply your heat, transportation and other goods. Could it be that you just wanted a gallon of milk and the supplier gave you a plastic jug to babysit until it decomposes in 10,000 years? The costs saved by these monopolies’ endless mantra of recycle, reuse and renew actually shifts the blame for their poor design and corrupt practices. Demand they hire designers and creatives for solutions and don’t shoulder the blame to prop up their stock price. Why accept the guilt-trip and shoulder the blame when your livelihood is based on supplying creative solutions?

  4. I stumbled across your name while searching through some old archives and thought I might have remembered you… I vaguely recalled a conversation with someone on rmc about PEI.

  5. It’s easy to blame the consumer, virtually the only party that has had virtually nothing to do with the thousands of decisions that have led up to this guilt trip.

    If you adhere to the belief that no single person has the time and resources to do everything themselves then you have to also admit that some things are out of our control.

    There is a reason that almost everything you can think of contains some petroleum products. Profits.

    Modern capitalism runs on profits. The bigger, the better. The modern corporate world exists solely to generate profits for its shareholders.

    It is the drive for profits and the disregard for almost everything else that drives research and development.

    Since the corporations pass all of their costs on to the consumer with a complete disregard for non economic consequences, they have passed all the blame as well.

    The consumer exercises control almost solely by deciding to buy or not buy a product. unfortunately, the consumer has very little input into the process that decides what products are available to choose from. Think about it;

    Why do we use plastic bottles to hold soda and water?
    a. plastic is cheaper to manufacture than glass
    b. plastic doesn’t break as easily as glass
    c. plastic is lighter in weight, minimizing shipping costs

    The main reason that plastic is used is all of the above.

    Glass is recyclable forever, being made primarily of sand, one of Earth’s most abundant material, plastic, which comes from petroleum is very limited in quantity and will be long gone before the sands are gone.
    When it comes to a cold drink, I prefer glass over plastic as glass has better insulation qualities than plastic. In other words, it stays cold longer. I never get the choice though as almost all soft drinks come in plastic bottles or aluminum cans so I can’t buy the better solution if I wanted. Sure, it could be argued that maybe I should just drink tap water but where I live tap water is not available, well water is not drinkable so we truck in drinking water, which is of course only available in plastic bottles.

    This is just the obvious case of glass versus plastic bottles, but similar cases can be made for almost everything else derived from petroleum.

    It’s taken over a hundred years to build the current infrastructure, mostly built as a result of the waste byproducts of petroleum. if you take out the gasoline, fuel oils, and lubricants, almost everything else was originally waste products, over time, we found it easier to develop a petroleum economy than finding alternatives, after all, all the other stuff was just being wasted. It made perfect sense to find useful ways to put it to use. and of course, this led to the oil companies becoming the biggest companies in the world, supplying raw materials to almost all industries.

    This trend is not going to go away any time soon, at least not as long as we can still get oil out of the earth. There’s just no profit in it.

    What should happen is a Manhattan Project for chemistry, to find alternatives for all of the things that are produced from petroleum. The oil companies will make sure it doesn’t happen because it’s not in THEIR best interests.

    No, don’t blame the consumers, if you want to blame someone, blame the investors and all of the others that have sold out to big business, and go out and rent the movie ‘they live’, it’s a horrible movie, but it makes the necessary point.

    For the record, I am not against big business, I’m against business for the means of generating wealth with a total disregard for the impact they create. Used to be, a company existed to server a public need, making a profit was important, but not to the exclusion of the service it provided. These days, corporations think their primary function is to generate wealth, not the same thing. These days, the corporations don’t care, they don’t have to. They can’t be jailed and any fines they incur just get passed onto the consumers

    it’s just business

  6. Agree we are oil addicts. Like a cocaine head railing against poppy farmers in Afghanistan. The federal government shares some responsibility in knowing what is going on its territory.

Comments are closed.