Adena L. Kalfa


“What’s in It for Us?”


The American standard of living is wholly reliant on oil. It moves us from A to B, heats our homes, and is also a basis of a range of products like medicines, paints, plastics, fertilizers, and so much more. There are however, many damaging and costly results in our use of oil. The American people are fully aware of the damage oil is causing our nation, but we are not willing to contribute some individual help towards the crisis. What is the driving force behind why the American people are so intent on consuming oil, and not intent on solving the energy crisis as a whole?


The average American citizen is probably not aware of the hidden costs behind oil. As a nation we are more focused on the War in Iraq or the rising gasoline prices, and understandably so. However, there are more complicated problems at hand. Oil is causing more of a dilemma in our economy than we realize. How is this so? Statistically speaking, “the National Defense Council Foundation estimates that the Pentagon spends $49.1 billion a year preserving access to Persian Gulf oil, gasoline. And that was before the US invaded Iraq.”(Klassen) Citizens hear about oil spills on the new all the time. Americans are not thinking about fishery closures, loss in tourism, and most importantly the clean up costs. What is more distressing is the price we pay in human lives. The World Health Organization reports, “Eighty thousand deaths a year in Europe attributed to long term exposure to air pollution.”(World Health Organization online) Besides the emotional stress this puts on citizens, the economic costs are a real problem. Furthermore the effect oil is having on our nation’s ecology is far beyond the issue of global warming. Global warming is a problem, but what stems from it is even worse. First of all global warming increases the risk of forest fires, and floods, as well as losses of land due to rising sea levels.


The fact that the American economy is at risk is a well-established argument. The question remains, why? Why can our Government not take care of this problem? Why can’t we enact a set of laws regulating the use of energy in our homes, or the sale of gasoline? Why are the American citizenry not truly worried about the fact that our American dream and lifestyle are quickly going to be shattered?


The heart of the problem may very well lie in both the citizens and the government. As citizens, we find it a lot easier to point a finger to one specific thing. We seem to use the excuse that President Bush is causing all of our problems; if he had not gone into Iraq, we would not be confronted with the energy complication. The problem may not only be that of the oil itself, and the economic trouble, but a moral issue. America’s society is a greedy consumer nation. We Americans have no limitations, and as a society we prove this every day by driving our gas guzzling SUV’s. Not only are we faced with oil consumption, international complications, economical trouble, and lack of resources, but also a moral decline in our nation as a whole. We can’t expect the energy crisis to be solved in the swift removal of our current president because this is an ethical problem evolved over our nation’s history. Consumerism did not just happen in the past four years and we need to address deeper issues than the presidency. Energy policies may however be different in a non-Bush administration, and this would represent a start, but that we have profound issues of greed and lack of respect for the environment, that will take generations to address.


Another issue at hand is the American need for instant gratification. We are not looking at the energy crisis as a long-term problem. Right now, we have our gasoline; we have our electricity, or medicine, paints, and our plastics. What would our citizens do if we went to fill our cars with gas only to find that the well is empty? We would not know how to deal with family members dying due to air pollution caused by oil drilling. We simply are not willing to look ahead, because it has not yet truly affected us individually, and if it has, it’s only been to a minor extent, not enough to sway the entire nation.


When we combine our greed with our lack of patience and our economic standing, we have one heck of a problem. Proposing a quick fix solution would be the typical American way. In this case, however, it is not possible. Solving the energy crisis is solving only a symptom of a deeper problem. Our entire attitude must change towards the way we deal with things. This is a process, which involves an entire nation working together in a slow, but necessary evolution of our outlook.



Works Cited


Nicholas Klassen. “True Cost”. Adbusters Magazine, Volume 12. September 2004.


“Averting the Three Outriders of the Transport Apocolypse: Road Accidents, Air and Noise Pollution.” <> Update not listed; Accessed 5 October 2004.