Oil-related disasters will keep on happening, because all human activities are flawed

It's easy to think the Oil Companies Will Always Win, and that therefore all Living Things are doomed to suffer.   The oil company moguls have huge wealth, giving them huge power to shape our world. The dizzying array of products that can be made from Fossil Oil create a huge economic clout. The benefits from the energy and useful chemicals locked in fossil oil, are bought at the price of hugely negative consequences that are poisonous to all living things.

Including these:

  • Crude oil is a mixture of many different kinds of organic compounds, many of which are highly toxic and cancer causing (carcinogenic).
  • Incomplete combustion releases various toxic compounds into the atmosphere. Fine particulates causes cardiovascular disease.
  • Nitrous oxides form during combustion, and combine with sulfur and other oil constituents to create acid rain.
  • Increased CO2 emissions increase greenhouse effects excacerbating climate change.
  • The inevitable accidents release untreated crude oil into the environment.

It's easy to feel dejected, thinking the oil companies have all the power, and we have no way to stop the resulting spewing of toxicity.

Maybe we should give up and resign ourselves to our woefully polluting our grandchildren's lives with the toxic poisonous consequences of fossil oil consumption?  That would be like the message of the movie Doctor Strangelove and its subtitle "How I learned to stop worrying and Love the Bomb" (the Nuclear Bomb, that is). But are we such sheep that this is our fate, and that of our descendants?

We don't have to resign ourselves to the fate of living on an ever-dirtier home planet.

The oil companies, like any company, live off us. Specifically, we spend money to buy products derived from oil, and that money feeds the oil companies. The money we give the oil companies incentivizes them to continue the business of drilling for oil and selling fossil oil products (it's not just gasoline or diesel).

That the oil companies conveniently escape from paying for the negative consequences of their products means there's no disincentive for their business activities.

This gives us a two-fold path to preventing further fossil oil consumption and all its negative consequences.  Along the way the oil companies may have to die, depending on how facile they are at rethinking their line of business.

  • Stop giving money to the oil companies, which means to stop spending money on products derived from fossil oil.
  • Make the oil companies pay for the negative consequences of their products.

Doing both of those things will starve the market for fossil oil, making it economically unfeasible to continue that line of business.

Yes, the oil companies are owned by powerful rich people who buy politicians right and left. That power tilts the playing field heavily in their favor, making it look impossible to make any significant change. That money and power comes from us, from our purchases of fossil oil products. Starving them of that money can change the game.

Those two big steps of course mean taking a zillion smaller steps. Such as:

  • Exploring the range of transportation alternatives that avoid burning fossil fuels. (walking, biking, mass transit, electric vehicles, ...)
  • Learning about the full range of products derived from fossil oil, and determining the best alternatives.
  • Political work to change policies regarding oil companies so they stop getting a free ride

Our future, our descendants future, depends on what we collectively choose to do. Do we collectively keep on buying gasoline and other fossil oil products? Or do we take the actions required to change course?

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.
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