AXIS Performance Advisors

Demystifying sustainability

Confessions of an Oilaholic

Copyright 2010 AXIS Performance Advisors

Responsible party

Courtesy digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net

Hello, my name is Darcy and I am an oilaholic. I am addicted to oil. I too am responsible for the titanic disaster in the gulf.

I am angry

Watching the goop in the Gulf spread into marshes and sink into gigantic globs in the deep, I am unspeakably angry.  BP—Beyond Petroleum—had become known for their apparent inattention to safety after the lapse in maintaining the Alaskan pipelines and that refinery explosion. And now this. How could our government have let BP move forward without all the necessary permits.

How could it be that when they were drilling in unprecedentedly deep waters that they never tested the robots and emergency procedures at that depth? Why do they only have contingency plans lined up instead of all the equipment to quickly deploy Plan B when Plan A doesn’t work and Plan C when Plan B fails?  I mean right after, within an hour, not ‘next week.’
I am despondent for the people of the Gulf, not yet recovered from Katrina and Rita, watching their livelihoods imperiled most likely for the rest of their lives. As one person put it, ‘Our economy is based on fish and oil and one is killing the other.”

And I grieve for the millions of innocent creatures out there sickened, suffocating, dying. I cannot believe that it has been over six weeks and the pipe is still spewing oil and our only course of action of any effectiveness has been to treat it with dispersants which the EPA says are too toxic. Nature is resilient but she was already reeling from dead zones and wetland destruction. How much more abuse can she take? I am heart-sick.

I am guilty
And while BP is the responsible party, I too am responsible. While I purchase carbon offsets for my company (I often don’t get around to it for my personal impact), I still use oil. And by doing so, I start the siphon, sucking on the tube that makes the oil companies drill for oil. I felt virtuous that my company has been ‘carbon neutral’ for close to a decade but every time I drive my Prius or get on an airplane, I use oil; and every time I turn on my high-efficiency furnace, I use methane, oil’s conjoined twin. Thank heaven our solar panels produce half our electricity and the other half is green power, or I’d feel guilty for that as well, for a lot of electricity is fueled by natural gas.   My company and household have already have done a lot to reduce our carbon footprint, but it is not enough. I still create a demand for oil and that oil has to come from somewhere. There is no way to reuse or recycle the gas I put in my car once I burn it. Every drop I use comes from a new barrel sucked from the ground.

I am ashamed
I want to renounce oil. I want to throw away my car (not sell it; crush it so it can never again use fossil fuel.) I should stop flying. I should demand that my husband, who works for the airlines, quit. And yet I, someone steeped in sustainability and committed to a sustainable future, find myself resisting. When I told my husband how I felt, he gave me that don’t-you-think-you’re-going-a-little-overboard look. Am I to tell my elderly mother on the opposite coast that I can never come visit her again? I have a business trip in two weeks and a sustainability study tour to Denmark this fall. What am I to do?

If I had been born 150 years ago, I would never expect to have such extravagance. Americans setting out in Conestoga wagons accepted that they would likely never see their loved ones again. Most people never saw lands farther than their horse could carry them in a day. And many of them had good lives. But we are so used to the benefits of an unsustainable lifestyle.

Sure, just renouncing travel doesn’t absolve me from oil. Products are still transported to my market and I use plastics and pharmaceuticals. But it would perhaps satisfy the 80/20 rule, a symbolic embargo.

What does it mean that someone like me, who understands much of the science and what is at stake regarding climate change, still cannot quite bring myself to make this sacrifice? If even I am not willing to stop using, forget the rest of the world.

Oh, I can recite all the enabling rationalizations: my sacrifice wouldn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things; no one else is doing it so why should I; I’ve already done more than most to reduce our carbon footprint; the transition will take time. But every week I do something that requires that BP and the other oil companies pump more oil out of the ground.  How do I get out of this bind? What do I do? Where is my 12-step program? Tell me. How do I live with myself now?

© Copyright 2010 AXIS Performance Advisors, Inc. All
rights reserved.

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One comment on “Confessions of an Oilaholic

  1. Barbra & Jack Donachy
    August 3, 2013

    We need to begin the difficult, controversial work of educating people about overpopulation and the need to reduce family size. The problems that arise from fossil fuel use are symptoms – not the root. With nine billion people on this planet and the population continuing to grow, it is difficult – or impossible – to conceive of any overarching lifestyle that would be sustainable.

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