Friday, January 2, 2009


I'm pondering some changes to the approach I will take to the blog; while I do that, I will likely be writing just some quick posts the next few days. So I will start with a phrase that has been bothering me: that the United States is "addicted to oil."

This is a favorite of Tom Friedman's, but others have picked up on it as well. And it's simply untrue.

What is true is that we are accustomed to the lifestyle that cheap oil has afforded us, and there is, I think, a real sentiment that all of these magical changes that are being proposed will be (pick one or more) unworkable, more costly, or in some way much less convenient.

Had we started with cars that never required fluids or maintenance, then someone said we can no longer make those, so we have to move to vehicles that need to have some stinky fluid poured into them every 300-400 miles, and another stinky fluid needs to be changed every 3 months, and there will be regular disruptive maintenance, we would be up in arms. Instead, of course, these relatively small matters replaced the necessity to house and feed a horse or two, and so seemed infinitely better.

By the same token, if the magical energy fairy came down and waved a magic wand and turned all of our cars and SUVs and mini-vans into machines that could be powered by, say, paper, and the requirements for ownership were exactly the same, we'd jump at the chance.

So it may be convenient shorthand or, more likely, alarmist rhetoric to say that we're "addicted to oil," but it's nonsensical, and we should cut it out.

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