Addicted to Oil

Stover, Dawn | June 24, 2014 | Leave a Comment

More than eight years ago, then-US President George W. Bush warned that “America is addicted to oil.” He was right about the diagnosis. But he was wrong about the treatment.

Bush called for replacing Mideast oil imports with homegrown ethanol. That’s like prescribing methadone for addicts who can’t stay off heroin. Except that methadone actually helps addicts live healthier lives, whereas ethanol is even worse for the climate than gasoline

Read this entire opinion piece at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist:

http://thebulletin.org/addicted-oil7174


MAHB-UTS Blogs are a joint venture between the University of Technology Sydney and the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to joan@mahbonline.org

MAHB Blog: https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/addicted-to-oil/

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedIn
The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Vincent Pawlowski

    The comments thus far show little understanding of how to frame our society’s fossil fuel addiction, and use that framing as a way to provide relief to many millions who suffer from it. Just as putting addicts in jail does nothing but harden their criminal skills, treatment for fossil fuel addicts cannot be forced.

    If you are like many of us who cannot stop getting into your car to go to the corner store, when walking or bicycling would be a healthier, saner alternative, check out the growing number of resources available for you. My personal experience is that I did not stop using the car for short trips until I put my bicycle directly between my front door and the parking space.

    Long ago, I owned a Jeep. Having an off-road capable vehicle shaped my consciousness in obvious and subtle ways. Learning to just say no took two Priuses. The first retired with many undercarriage dings and dents. The exhaust pipe was bent in several different directions. The second Prius is forbidden from going off the paved highways. I have learned that everything looks like a nail when the only tool you have is a hammer.

    Can I force anyone else to follow this path? Renting the appropriate tool for the job is a much better choice for me now. My family has an old pickup truck that is generally only used for home improvement hauling. Occasionally, it gets off-road, when there is a good reason. Of course I cannot force anyone to make sustainable choices, but I can make them cooler than the alternatives. The freedoms I have gained are well worth the tradeoffs.

  • rrhake

    The URLs in my previous comment were obliterated, evidently because I surrounded them with angle brackets – anathema to some server systems. Here’s a second try without the angle brackets.

    Dawn Stover thinks the solution to our addiction to oil lies in various addiction therapies. Could our addiction to guns also be cured by therapies? Or would more stringent requirements for background checks on gun buyers, or outright repeal of the second amendment, be more effective?

    

In the same sense, would a Carbon Fee-and-Dividend (CF&D) be more effective than therapies in curing our addiction to fossil fuels? 



    Some MAHB subscribers might be interested in a discussion list post “Re: James Hansen’s ‘Too Little, Too Late? Oops?’ ” [Hake (2014)]. The abstract reads:



    **************************************

    ABSTRACT: Climate scientist James Hansen (2014) http://bit.ly/omiMY3, in his report “Too Little, Too Late? Oops?” at http://bit.ly/1m15lmz wrote (paraphrasing): 


    “Many queries received: is Obama’s climate effort ‘too little, too late?’ Closely related query: are we at an ‘oops’ moment, a realization that we have pushed the climate system too far, so consequences such as ice sheet disintegration and large sea level rise are now out of our control? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



    The answer re ‘too little?’ is obvious from the fact that governments, ours included, are allowing and encouraging industry to go after every fossil fuel that can be found.

    Rather than dwelling on that fact, let’s consider the action needed to avoid ‘too late’.

 Citizens Climate Lobby http://citizensclimatelobby.org/ just released a study ‘The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power, and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax.’ A 3-page summary by Danny Richter is at http://bit.ly/1ypEENy. 



    According to their comprehensive analysis of the impacts of a carbon fee-and-dividend (CF&D) in the United States, with 100% revenue distribution of the money to the public in equal shares as direct payments: the fee would start at $10/ton of CO2 and increase $10/ton each year; 100% of the revenue is returned to households, equal amounts to all legalresidents. This approach spurs the economy, increasing the number of jobs by 2.1 million in 10 years. Emissions decrease 33% in 10 years, 52% in 20 years.



    Contrary to the wails of fossil-fuel-industry kingpins, the fossil fuel CF&D stimulates the economy, modernizes infrastructure and saves 13,000 lives per year via improved air quality. GDPincreases, with fee-and-dividend causing a cumulative GDP increase of $1.375 trillion.

    Why do these results differ from previous studies concluding that a carbon tax would be costly? The main reason is that other studies do not have 100% recycling of funds to the public; instead part of the money is taken as a tax, to increase the size of government.”

    **************************************

    

To access the complete 37 kB post please click on http://bit.ly/1w3Arx1 .

    

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics,
    Indiana University



    REFERENCES [URL shortened by http://bit.ly/ and,accessed on 24 June 2014.]


    Hake, R.R. 2014. “Re: James Hansen’s ‘Too Little, Too Late? Oops?’ ” Post of 20 Jun 2014 09:08:40 -0700 to AERA-L and Net-Gold. Online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at http://bit.ly/1w3Arx1. The abstract and link to the complete post are being transmitted to several discussion lists and are on my blog “Hake’sEdStuff” at http://bit.ly/SXSnuh with a provision for comments.

    • MAHB_SC

      Thank you for your patience and for re-submitting your comment. I have deleted your earlier version so that responses will be posted to this comment.

  • jane

    I’ve read the full article and wonder at some of its remedies,which ,frankly ,seem simplistic to put it mildly: smiley faces on electricity and water bills? I don’t think so!
    Water and fuel charges have soared in the UK in the aftermath of privatisation and hit the poorest hardest.
    I agree that fossil fuels underpin our ever-growing empire but to see dependence solely as an addictive disorder is not going to provide a solution in itself: in fact it raises the spectre of medicalising what many still see as normal behaviour.
    Might the Consumption Police start to enforce CBT and 12 step programmes for the worst offenders?
    A gift to the climate change denial lobby I suspect.
    How many oil company executives , car makers or producers of white goods and electronics are going to be evangelised by the contents of DSM-V?
    Investment in alternatives will have to be substantially increased if reliance on oil is to be effectively reduced.
    A period of transition will be required if civil unrest and resource conflicts are to be prevented?
    How likely is this,given what is going on in the Middle East?
    The green movement seems to have lost its momentum and to be shedding,rather than gaining,support.
    A new way of stimulating public support is needed.

  • rrhake

    Dawn Stover thinks the solution to our addition to oil lies in various addiction therapies. Could our addiction to guns also be cured by therapies? Or would more effective requirements for background checks on gun buyers, or outright repeal of the second amendment, be more effective?

    

In the same sense, would a Carbon Fee-and-Dividend (CF&D) be more effective than therapies in curing our addition to fossil fuels? 



    Some MAHB subscribers might be interested in a discussion list post “Re: James Hansen’s ‘Too Little, Too Late? Oops?’ ” [Hake (2014)]. The abstract reads:



    **************************************

    ABSTRACT: Climate scientist James Hansen (2014) , in his report “Too Little, Too Late? Oops?” at wrote (paraphrasing):

”Many queries received: is Obama’s climate effort ‘too little, too late?’ Closely related query: are we at an ‘oops’ moment, a realization that we have pushed the climate system too far, so consequences such as ice sheet disintegrationand large sea level rise are now out of our control? . . . . . . . . . . . . .
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



    The answer re ‘too little?’ is obvious from the fact that governments, ours = included, are allowing and encouraging industry to go after every fossil fuel that can be found.

    Rather than dwelling on that fact, let’s consider the action needed to avoid ‘too late’.

 Citizens Climate Lobby just released a study ‘The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power, and Demographic Impact of a National Fee-and-Dividend Carbon Tax.’ A 3-page summary by Danny Richter is at .
    


    According to their comprehensive analysis of the impacts of a carbon fee-and-dividend (CF&D) in the United States, with100% revenue distribution of the money to the public in equal shares as direct payments: the fee would start at $10/ton of CO2 and increase $10/ton each year; 100% of the revenue is returned to households, equal amounts to all legal residents. This approach spurs the economy, increasing the number of jobs by 2.1 million in 10 years. Emissions decrease 33% in 10 years, 52% in 20 years.

    

Contrary to the wails of fossil-fuel-industry kingpins, the fossil fuel CF&D
    stimulates the economy, modernizes infrastructure and saves 13,000 lives per
    year via improved air quality. GDP increases, with fee-and-dividend causing a
    cumulative GDP increase of $1.375 trillion.

Why do these results differ from
    previous studies concluding that a carbon tax would be costly? The main reason
    is that other studies do not have 100% recycling of funds to the public;
    instead part of the money is taken as a tax, to increase the size of
    government.”

    **************************************

    

To access the complete 37 kB post pleas click on .

    

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University



    REFERENCES [URL shortened by and accessed on 24 June 2014.]


    Hake, R.R. 2014. “Re: James Hansen’s ‘Too Little, Too Late? Oops?’ ” Post of 20 Jun 2014 09:08:40 -0700 to AERA-Land Net-Gold. Online on the OPEN! AERA-L archives at .The abstract and link to the complete post are
    being transmitted to several discussion lists and are on my blog “Hake’sEdStuff” at with a provision forcomments.

  • The addiction framing is very accurate, but I do agree with Eric that our addiction is to the benefits provided by power and not to fossil fuels per se. Most people would not care if their motorcycles (the roar and vibration can simulated) and internet were powered by electricity from solar or wind instead of fossil fuels, as long as it was readily available. Dawn seems to take the position that like with alcoholism, the solution is to stop using power of any sort. But with Eric’s obesity example, the most important solution is to switch from the wrong foods to the right foods, albeit reduction in quantity may also be important. However, when it comes to power, the only way to save the planet is to provide more and more power to everyone and let them consume as much as they want–only make it from a safe source that is sustainable does not hurt the ecosystem. (I also posted this response in the discussion stream after Dawn’s article on the UCS website).

  • max kummerow

    The addiction diagnosis has some good aspects: the idea of dependency and harmful overuse and the need to quit. But it also has limits. I think saying we are addicted to fossil fuel is like saying we are addicted to food. Yes we eat too much, we overuse the corn chips and cupcakes, but you can’t go cold turkey on food. Since literally half the world’s food supply relies on nitrogen made from natural gas (via the Haber-Bosch process), cold turkey on fossil fuel would mean stopping half the world’s food supply. You have to be a pretty hard core deep deep deep ecologist to like that idea. So the addiction metaphor only goes so far. Weight loss or switching away from some kind of known harmful foods (cutting sugar intake) would be a better analogy.