Saturday, March 12, 2005

Spring Break

This week was Spring Break and I was as lazy as my students. So no update March 7th.

But I have been thinking a lot about oil this last week. There are a few people who think that the Iraq endeavor was not about WMDs, but rather think it was about oil. Some of them protest the war, and get shown on TV with big placards reading "No Blood for Oil!"

I love these placards. They are so wrong. Oil powers our transportation. Period. If oil were to become more scarce, there would be immediate effects upon personal transportation. We could not switch to electric without a complete infrastructure overhaul.

Secondly, all city building done in the US since the 1960s assumes that each and every citizen has a car. These same placard holders will complain that people are too lazy to walk to the store, or work. They complain that people don't want to ride the bus. But again, the fundamental point is that because of the choices we made regarding our cities people physically cannot walk to work, school, the store. The bus sucks as a transportation option. However, because of those same choices, effective mass transit is almost impossible to retrofit into newer development.

Third, all of our retail has evolved into big box shopping. I get most of my groceries at WalMart. Hardware stuff at Home Depot, electronica at Circuit City, cat food at Pet Smart. None of this retail is going to work if oil is not cheap. Further, retail that would work for people in an expensive fuel environment has succombed to the competition of the big boxes.

Fourth, implied in the big box, but necessary to state seperately is over the road trucking. We use trucking more and more every year. I don't know the exact numbers for OTR freight, but it is a tremendous amount of our products. And how does stuff come from China in the first place? Ships, running on petroleum fuels.

Fifth, while we don't really have a replacement for transport energy, this is not the only important thing we use oil for. How do we farm? Diesel tractors, diesel combines.

This is leaving out the plastics, the chemical derivitives, the meds, and so on and so forth.

Now, I'm not sure I want to take sides on Bush's middle east shindig, but I know those folks with the placards are wrong. The US needs oil the way agricultural empires need land. If we aren't going to fight for oil, then we aren't going to fight for anything. Oil may be one of the few things worth fighting for.

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