You'll All Be Back

Between Sarah Palin's bullshit and the huffing and puffing over the need to get beyond fossil fuel, America's energy issues could be easily solved.

There's no disputing the havoc the Gulf oil spill will wreak on the coast. The black stuff has already appeared on 140 miles of coastline. BP has repeatedly failed to plug or stop the busted well. Scientists are disputing how much oil is really spilling into the Gulf, formerly anti-handout cheerleaders (Louisiana governor Bobby Jindahl) are demanding the federal government Do Something Now, people are lining up to sue, vacation plans are being scaled back or canceled -- it's like an Irwin Allen movie.

I don't make light of it, I don't dismiss it. But nothing will get less sympathy from me than the endless calls to "end" our dependence on oil. Why? Because it's a meaningless phrase. It solves nothing, it promises nothing other than exposing a cheap tactic to act the populist. And believe it or not, it's not because this tired cliché is trotted out to the mob each time this happens, but the simplistic nature of just unplugging ourselves from oil is dangerously stupid and short-sighted.

Do people have any real conception of how much our entire way of life is based on oil? Practically everything that makes our lives comfortable and advanced is based on oil and its byproducts. Oil, as I like to remind my more high-minded friends, isn't just gas that goes into your car. If you want to get America off fossil fuel, then you need to tell me how the desk I'm writing at, the computer I use, the bins I store my winter clothes in and myriad other things I use on a daily basis are going to remain the same when we all use wind and solar power. I'm all for it, don't get me wrong. I take it very seriously, but what I think is a steaming pile of bullshit is the idea that we can have our cake and eat it, too, merely by getting rid of oil.

And let's face a sobering fact: we are not going to stop importing oil, foreign or otherwise, any time soon. We are not going to convert strictly to wind power because we've had enough of oil spills. And please, don't suggest we can replace oil byproducts in everything we own and use with some technological advance because there's going to be some unknown health hazard about it. Take your plastic containers that you put leftover food in: I don't recommend heating up your food even though the manufacturer says it's microwave safe because this oil derived container is probably leaching chemicals into your food. Aside from a glass container, what wonderful, cheap product is going to be produced specifically to wean us off oil? If they exist, I will be the first to apologize, but right now, I don't think they do.

Telling the American people, who are notoriously short-sighted in large groups, that the way to national security is to stop the use of oil sounds terrific during an election year because folks like hearing good things, but nobody's come up with a nice PowerPoint presentation detailing the specifics. Of course, if you're a politician, you need to keep this information to yourself or at least mask your own stupidity by appealing to "wind power" or some such feel good alternative. I've not seen anybody say that switching to wind or solar power is going to require a change in our lifestyle because that is the kiss of death. You have to make the solution appear as easy as possible, but the second you bring up "changes," everyone will balk and bitch about how the government is taking their rights away by forcing you not to use an oil byproduct.

By all means, we need a massive attitude change, we need to stop burning fossil fuel, we need to make BP suffer a slow death, and so on and so forth. But this society does not have the vision or the gumption to follow through on making a cultural change to stop using oil and adapt to a new lifestyle that significantly reduces the presence of oil in our lives. So you can huff and puff all you want:

You'll all be back.