Is the U.S. in ‘Oil Rehab’? Thoughts on fossil fuels and the Next Generation
- Nov. 20, 2012
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In case you missed it, the oil giant BP is now a convicted felon in the United States. Not that it’s an overreach of justice. If corporations wish to be treated as people, surely the persons responsible for one of the worst ecological disasters in U.S. history should be held accountable.
This decision, along with other recent developments, have led some to believe that the United States might finally be checking into “Oil Rehab,” a place where we come to recognize the reality of our energy situation and begin the long, hard journey toward true sustainability and preservation. These developments include discussion of ending tax breaks for big oil as part of a larger tax bargain. Additionally, many centrist and right-leaning groups are throwing support behind a possible carbon tax. This is something even progressive Democrats had abandoned in the face of staunch opposition from a wide variety of industries, especially the energy sector. Then there’s the sadly dormant issue facing wind energy, which might finally be getting some steam.
But is this hope based on actual possibilities or wishful thinking? Moreover, what does it mean for the generation of young people who haven’t known a time when gas was under $2 a gallon, which will likely inherit a world of shrinking supply and exploding demand for energy? No surprise that the answer is complicated and the reality is probably mixed.
For people in the environmental and alternative energy camp, it’s probably best not to be too excited yet. While there are these signs of progress, there are also signs that also point to an increased dependence on American fossil fuels. (Check out this information on the coming oil boom.) Experts in the industry believe the spike in production is widespread and significant, while others believe these reports to be unrealistically sunny and wobbly based on the evidence.
For the young Americans who will deal with the future’s energy issues – likely a shortage coupled with high costs and even more economic setbacks – it’s time to perk up and pay attention. While the domestic boom is exciting to some people, it’s entirely possible that we are living through what is known among energy experts as Hubbert’s Peak. This is the point at which oil supply and production reaches a height that will never again be achieved, signaling a perpetual decline in supply and rise of cost until retrievable fossil fuels are exhausted. It happened once before in the United States, and the overwhelming evidence points to it happening again on a global scale.
It is also imperative that we hold companies of all kinds, not just fossil fuel producers, responsible for the tolls their activities take on the environment and the lives of our citizens. The BP ruling is a prime example of the way our justice system should work, and for the generation whose choices will shape the well-being of our nation and our planet, it is of the highest importance for us to take the lessons of today, as well as the hopes and fears, into tomorrow.