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Family Conversations

The following is a recent email exchange I had with a family member who will not be named. It’s important to realize the influence that even small conversations carry. I forwarded to her the U.S. Oil Consumption Graph that I posted a few days ago, and this was my family member’s response:

“OK – isn’t the REAL point to be released from the bondage of the oil cartel in the Middle East – who seem to me to be controlling the world? We need this stuff – we are going to keep using this stuff no matter what – SO it may not be the ultimate answer to our crisis BUT at least we’re trying to take the focus away from the oil cartel in the mid-east by finding solutions ( however slim) on our own. And maybe, just maybe, we will learn to provide for ourselves -given enough time. THAT is the solution.
There is no quick fix to this – as you know – we have to start somewhere.
Love you”

Here’s my response:

“Crude Oil and Total Petroleum Imports Top 15 Countries

“Take a look at the bottom table, entitled “Total Imports of Petroleum (per day).” If you add up the contributions to our oil imports from Canada, Latin America, and the Middle East (I included Algeria) in June 2008, you’ll note that each provides the US with about one-third of the majority of our supply (82%). To say that we are under the bondage of the Middle East oil cartel is not entirely accurate, since Canada, Latin America, and the Middle East provide us with similar percentages of petroleum. For comparison purposes, the United States produced an average of about 5,125,000 barrels per day, which is about 1 million barrels per day less than the total Middle East and Latin American imports we received.

Americans have been tricked into thinking that [offshore oil drilling] is a good decision by deceptive advertising and messaging. We should be trying to release ourselves from oil, period, no matter who controls it. We’ve had the technology available to do it since the 1990s, yet oil and auto executives made sure to pull the plug on plug-in electric vehicles (terrible pun, I know) in California before they were available to the public on a wider scale. They’ve also killed public transportation initiatives, which are integral to a more sustainable society. Conservation initiatives also need to be in the forefront of the government’s agenda, not tapping into our meager supply. We’ve been given a false dichotomy, which is that we drill and begin to move toward “energy independence” or we don’t drill and allow the terrorists to win. That is far from a realistic assessment of our energy crisis.

If we do drill, there is no guarantee that US citizens will even be able to use the oil, as the companies who are drilling are multinational corporations; the oil will be used by the global market. Our oil could possibly end up in Europe, Africa, or even the Middle East. Granted, transport costs and other considerations will dictate where the oil travels, but we can’t be so sure that it will end up in US cars; the market just doesn’t work that way.

Americans want lower gas prices, but we’re not going to have pre-2000 prices any time soon, even if we do drill. We have less than 3% of the world’s oil located in our offshore areas, which are quite sensitive, as there is no safe way to drill in the ocean. It is true that we won’t see the oil for years, nor will it have a substantive effect on gas prices. The only thing that will affect gas prices dramatically is if we lessen the demand, which is currently happening. US citizens drove 9.6 million less miles in May 2008 than in May ’07. If we stop using oil, gas prices will go down.

Basically, we can get off of oil. We have the technology, and pushing industries to produce electric vehicles at a larger scale will create more jobs, resulting in a more prosperous economy. We should focus on furthering non-carbon emitting fuels.  We also have to change our driving habits. Carpool when necessary, and take public transit if it’s available. Granted, Hendersonville’s rural landscape makes it difficult, but if you can cut down the number of trips you take, it will save gas and save money. Maybe you could arrange a carpooling schedule for Will in the mornings with some other parents. Well, I guess that’s technically what Will and Dad do in the mornings, which is great.

One more point: the Middle East is NOT controlling the world. We have to stop accepting that as appropriate justification for ridiculous government actions, like wiretapping, suspending habeas corpus, and worst of all, going to war in Iraq.

Love ya,


My unnamed relative had a final follow-up:

“Good arguments John. And just why aren’t YOU running for public office? We need more young men to take a stand for what’s right.
I stand corrected.
Love ya”

If you haven’t figured out who my unnamed family member is, then I’ve done a good job. I haven’t done a good job.

It was nice to see a shift in my relative’s opinion; I felt like I had accomplished something.

Every little victory counts.

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