A serendipitous side-effect of the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico well over a month ago may point out the obvious conclusion; it’s time to change our reliance on crude oil.
Take into consideration the oil supply is depleting at an accelerated rate and is a limited resource. Too, the cost for a barrel of crude oil will increases to hundreds of dollars over the coming decades. Most important, we have the technology in place to wean ourselves off oil in much the same way we did from steam to combustion, from horse-and-buggy to steam.
Surely a species as advanced as mankind considers himself to be in the 21st century, is capable of such a transitional period, or are they? We are accustomed to a certain standard of living here in America. Moreover, we as humans are not accustoming to changes in our lifestyles, not at the expense of our own creature comforts. Take a look at your daily routine. Would you park your car and ride a bike to school? Would you or your parents invest in a home solar-conversion system? Are you willing to pay a little more for local and regional products rather than patronize the dollar store or Wal-Mart? Both Wal-Mart and the dollar stores are large importers of foreign products; thus incurring transportation requirements. These are the questions that Americans will have to answer yes to.
The technology already exits to begin the transformation to green energy. A solar farm in the Mojave Desert, hydrogen and hydrocarbon conversion on vehicles, wind and tidal farms are a few technologies currently available. The question is not one of profitability but rather a question of morality.
The United States is a democratic society based on bureaucracy, that is to say the mighty dollar controls nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Everything we buy, sell, invest in or deplete, are based on its monetary value. It is the profitability of a product, not the practicality that determines its value. The simple fact is that until the resources are diminished to the point where they are no longer profitable or extinguished altogether will the big oil companies be forced into alternative energies.
The other solution would be to enforce government mandates to force the issue of conversion. However, until Washington DC is devoid of lobbyists and paid off politicians, the argument for mandatory green energy solutions will in all probability fall on deaf ears.
The Gulf of Mexico may never recover completely from this disaster. The long-term effects will take decades to be completely documented. We can take no solace in the recovery efforts since the disaster either. The antiquated technology used for the clean-up process has not been improved since the Exxon Valdese disaster. The technological improvements in the oil industry over the last 25 years has been on the production end of the spectrum, they can drill deeper and extract the hydrocarbons more efficiently than ever before, but at what cost?
The oil spill will forever change the region. Lives have been lost and will continue to be at risk as long as the process doesn’t change. The economic devastation to the fishing and tourism industries in the Gulf of Mexico may never completely recover. If we as Americans do nothing to curb our addiction to oil, we may look forward to more such events in the future as the drilling moves towards more desperate measures to extract the oil. If we do not recognize this moment as the quintessential turning point in our energy dependency on oil, we probably never will.
If that is the case, our generation may be remembered as the one that destroyed the environment in the name of prosperity, rather than build a better world for our descendants. This is our wake-up call for a better long-term energy program. The question…will anyone answer the phone?