petroleum junkie

Like so many, I am angry at BP. They have done unfathomable amounts of harm to our ocean, to the wildlife that calls that ocean home, and to the economies that rely on that life. They have done damage that will take enormous amounts of time and expense to address, and much damage that may take years to recover from. Some damage may be permanent. The ongoing catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico is utterly devastating.

It’s appalling to realize how much profit BP has made–over 5 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2010–at the apparent expense of comprehensive safety measures.¹

Many people are calling to boycott BP. I’m not about to go out of my way to patronize them, but I’d never actually bought gas directly from them before.

So, what can I do to send a message?

Clearly, I need to buy my gas from a company that is more socially and environmentally responsible.

Would you believe that in a fairly recent (pre-“spill”) ranking of gas companies by social responsibility, BP came in second. Second from the top!

As gas companies go, BP has had a relatively clean and green record, boasting the following positive actions:

$600m to update pollution ctrl/workplace, working with Amnesty, working with WWF, low-sulfur gas, largest solar company, solar powered gas stations, member of CFCP, 1998 Enviro Steward Award, best overall effort in industry, abstains from political contributions, Malaysian GW education program, Non-Discrimination Policy, 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers, Greenhouse Friendly Autogas in Australia, 2004 model human rights efforts, self-imposed emissions caps

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not supporting BP, and I think they should pay heavily.⁴ I am disgusted by their irresponsible behavior, both in allowing the Gulf disaster to happen, and their actions since. (Such as using highly toxic dispersants, preventing journalists from accessing affected areas, etc.) The trouble is, their actions appear to be based on more-or-less standard practice in the oil industry.

I was horrified to learn about comparably large scale spills that have been going on in Nigeria–for decades. According to the Guardian :

…more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico…

As you might imagine, the effects of this ongoing situation in Nigeria are devastating to local wildlife, local economies and the health and well-being of the people who live there.

Who is to blame for this? As far as I can tell (from that Guardian article and this source), several oil companies are involved: Shell, Chevron-Texaco, and Exxon-Mobil.

But you know who else is to blame?

I am.

Me, and all of the other hundreds millions of people who use the oil. Like the oil that BP has been pumping out from the ocean floors, the oil being drilled in Nigeria is headed for the shores of wealthy countries: “the Niger delta supplies 40% of all the crude the United States imports.”

We use it not just for our cars, but for a whole bunch of other things. We rely on it for our way of life. We lament when gas prices go up, but we still keep consuming. And we are so dependent that we let the oil companies trash our environment and ruin the health and livelihood of thousands of people. All in the name of profit and convenience.

I know I’m not the worst offender. I don’t make billions in profits from oil. But…

We drive. We fly. Our house is heated by oil. We use plastics. We purchase goods that are transported by trucks. Driven on roads paved with petroleum products. We buy goods that come from across the globe.

I use petroleum products every day, in just about every aspect of my life. I am a junkie.

I can’t quit cold turkey.

I’m not ready to give up everything yet, but I’m planning to cut down.

If you’ll bear with me, I’ll share some of my plans (both short- and long-term) to reduce my personal dependence on petroleum.

¹ I love this commentary about the grand scale hubris. It’s bitingly funny. With dinosaurs.²

² For that matter, I’m pretty amused by the FB page called “Plugging the Gulf Oil Leak with the works of Ayn Rand.”³

³ In case you haven’t guessed, I am not a Libertarian. I’d like to see heftier regulations going on in the oil industry. But that’s a whole ‘nother topic.

⁴ BP has had other “black marks,” too, mind you. In addition to those listed on the ranking site mentioned above, there appear to have been many more recent safety violations.

h/t to laloca for the links on Nigeria and gas station rankings.

11 thoughts on “petroleum junkie

  1. Of course it’s June and CSA season has begun, but I’ve been cutting down on food miles. I always tried to buy local, but I did so when it was convenient, you know? Now I’m going out of my way to eat local when local is available, and not eating [x] when not.

    It’s increased my grocery bill by a shocking amount, so the next step is to figure that part out.

  2. I was thinking about how oil is everywhere the other day as I rubbed some Vaseline lotion on after my shower, which also led to some pondering about why I’m rubbing petroleum on my skin and what that’s doing to my health. I’m with you on trying to cool it with the oil products already.

  3. Great links. Hard to keep up a sense of humor on this topic. My husband &i have been discussing some of the other catastrophic spills in an attempt to gain perspective, but nothing really diminishes the horror and suckitude of the current situation.

    I will gladly follow along and join in while you figure out how to cut back.

  4. I feel exactly as you do and I am know that I am accountable to a degree. If public transportation were available from where I live to where I work, I’d take it. If I knew someone who worked in the same area of town, I’d carpool. If more things were available in biodegradable packaging I’d choose those products. On and on. Unfortunately, we’re not provided with many green choices (I’m not denying there are some.). I guess the thing to do is find ways to make optimal choices. For example, buy Sun Chips rather than Cheetos. Sun Chips are packaged in biodegradable packaging. Shop the local farmer’s market. Drive less. Buy fewer goods wrapped in plastic. Making these kinds of choices is progress, but a real change won’t happen unless we raise our voices (boycott, protest, vote to drive policy) and NOT FORGET! Our memory for environmental disasters is short. Even a desire to make a difference in our own lives can so easily go astray when we require convenience.

  5. living outside of NOLA, i am constantly bombarded with the images and the anger and the news about this spill. it is a constant in my FB newsfeed. The emotional toll that it is taking on our region (in addition to the far more measurable monatary, health, ecological, etc tolls) is staggering.

    I struggle with how to end my dependency, and how to have that make a real difference in the world.

    a good number of the people I know who live in my town make their living from the oil companies… in their offices, on their rigs…

    and have you heard the latest? that the bp “live cam” isn’t live at all? it’s a loop.

    ok… my blood pressure is rising… off to find a happier place…

  6. Thanks for posting about this, Alejna. I find myself so demoralized by the whole thing that it’s tempting to ignore it, but that wouldn’t really help either.

    I am definitely curious to hear what steps you will be taking to reduce your dependence on petroleum.

  7. I’ve made some changes over the years but not nearly enough. I need to do more! I’m looking forward to your next post. I hope it will inspire me to make more changes in my lifestyle!

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