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Gas is only the beginning

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By Joseph Kunkle

By Joseph Kunkle

The lifeblood of the American economy and the American lifestyle is oil. Black gold, Texas tea, the stuff that has millions of uses from plastics to food additives, the stuff that we have gone to war over, the stuff without which we, the American people would be completely helpless.

As vitally important to us as the hydrocarbon polluted air we breathe, crude oil has become America’s single most important substance of the last 150 years, and even after 30 years of tangible warnings like smog, ground-water pollution, gas shortages, and rising prices, as Americans, we are still no nearer to shedding our helpless addiction to it.

RCC Economics instructor Dr. Amber Casolari has given the following challenge to students in her economics classes: “Name one product in America that does not in some way rely on oil.” In acceptance of her challenge, one starts to consider many more facets of oil consumption than just the higher price of driving to school.

The ships, trains and trucks that transport goods, the plastics that the goods are made of, the power supplied to the factory where these goods were made, the machines that process and refrigerate food, the list becomes endless. According to the CIA World Factbook, the U.S. consumes 19.65 million barrels of oil each day; that’s seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Petroleum can be found in your morning breakfast cereal, probably colored with FD&C coloring, otherwise known as coal-tar dyes; petroleum and natural gas are the primary ingredients in plastic bags. Toothpaste, glue, tissue paper, if you can name it, there’s probably oil in there somewhere. Every single moment we consume a river of it. Paint, rubber tires, glass, plastic, nylon fabric, aluminum and steel, paper, even before we count the cars we drive the demand for oil is insatiable.So how to wean ourselves from this addiction? Do we really need coal-dye tars in our breakfast cereal? How can we even digest this stuff?

Huge SUVs are hard to park and get lousy gas mileage, gas stations are smelly eyesores that take all our money, motor oil drips from your engine and stains the driveway. Dependence on all that oil is not just a big bed of roses.

What about all this other stuff? Can we ever truly break the habit? There is a way. Let politicians know that fossil fuels don’t cut it any more, write letters, post to blogs, tell them that the old way is not going to cut it. Or, you could just mock the next person you see driving a huge gas-guzzler down the road.

Many of the things made of plastic will still need oil, but if we start to realize the depth of our addiction, the closer we will be to freeing ourselves from this loathsome burden of dependence. Like they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step to finding a cure is to admit you have a problem.

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