As the broken well off Louisiana continues to spew huge amounts of oil, killing wildlife and damaging the Gulf as a recreational center and major food source perhaps for decades, we've all taken our swing at the blame game.
On the Left, we delight in pointing to the anti-regulatory, anti-government agitations begun in the Reagan administration that flowered in George Bush's woeful eight years. Surely that selfish and misguided movement played a major role in this disaster.
Our brethren on the Right are just as quick to hold up President Obama's seeming lack of emotional involvement, comparing his administration's prompt if so far indecisive and unsuccessful response with the Bush administration's tardy, utterly ineffectual attention to Hurricane Katrina. Remember "Brownie?"
And BP, well, they can't win for trying, no matter what they do -- as perhaps they deserve, yachts and all.
But one key group gets off the hook too easily: you and me.
The reason we've got oil rigs drilling a mile deep into the ocean and fouling Alaska's wilderness is because you and I insist on filling up our car's gas tank anytime we want, right to the top, at a fraction of the cost others around the world pay, almost as an inalienable right. It's why we've got soldiers dying in Afghanistan and Iraq these many years down the road, too, you know.
Now, if you drive a hybrid car, have solar panels on your roof, take public transportation, walk or bike to work and recreation, sensibly don a sweater or open a window rather than reach for the switch, grow your own food, vote for light rail and public transportation propositions, take those cute little cloth bags to the grocery store…well, then you've earned your smug expression.
If not, let's you and I spend the next year cutting back on our energy use--reducing our carbon footprint, as people way into this stuff like to call it. If we can do our part, we can better demand that government and industry do their parts.
Currently, Americans use 8.35 TOE (tons of oil equivalent) per person each year, followed closely by Canadians at 8.16 TOE. But the French use half that at 4.25 TOE, the Irish make do with 3.96 TOE, and the Italians do nicely with 2.97 TOE -- barely a third of what the average American uses. A third! Criminy!
True, much of America and all of Canada have much cooler climates than these low flyers. People up north need more heat and light to make it through their long winters--the Finns and Swedes are also pretty high at 5.7 TOE--but that's not true here in Los Angeles. I've been to Ireland and France. I could live like that.
Some changes won't be easy to make. Remaking our cities to put our homes closer to our workplaces, shops, and parks, and spidering them with effective mass transit systems is beyond our individual capabilities and will in any case take decades.
But even on an individual basis, this close to retirement, it's not clear what I can do about my 30-mile commute, save work from home when I can. We'll have to see if our house is suited for solar panels and then whether we can afford them. I don't even know if I can switch to a more energy-efficient car either -- but by next year this time I will have checked off every item on my list. We will have done the ones we can and will know why we can't do the others. Watch this space.
There's a group at church -- our 7th Principle folks -- who focus on cutting energy consumption and conservation generally. They're all committed folks -- some scientists and engineers -- who know what they're talking about. They can help. No doubt there's people in your neighborhood who can help you.