Paul Andersen: Arab oil proves to be thicker than blood
July 29, 2002
Outside magazine is one of the great ironies of American culture. Gushing articles and superlative photographs extol the virtues of wild, remote places, then the magazine conveniently lists them all for the legions that are sure to follow, ultimately destroying them.
Outside is partially underwritten by SUV advertisements, which promote America’s insatiable addiction to fossil fuels. A recent full-page ad showed an SUV atop a sand dune with a young couple descending the dune on snowboards. “CHAIRLIFT,” read the ad.
This kind of thinking is leading the United States into a war in the Middle East, not just against Iraq, but against any country that dares to withhold oil from Americans. This fact was recently made clear to me at a dinner party in Aspen where, ironically, an energy expert was the featured speaker.
The host was a prominent, well-to-do American success story – home on the Roaring Fork River, art on the walls, antler chandelier – all the appointments of an Aspen luxury home. “We have every motorized toy known to man,” he and a friend boasted over a catered dinner.
The host described the fleet of vehicles he owns with “big V-8 engines.” He has racing cars and motorcycles. His friend proudly claimed that he has a boat in Florida that burns 40 gallons of gas per hour!
When I told them I had arrived at the dinner on a bicycle, they looked at me as if I were crazy. When I told them I drive an old Volvo with 210,000 miles, and that I ride the bus to and from Aspen, the host asked me if I wasn’t embarrassed. I tried to explain that I don’t identify with material possessions. My esteem went downhill from there.
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Our ensuing conversation about finite resources and the global politics of oil was shocking. Both men, educated and successful, had a clear and simple position on oil imports. They steadfastly recommended that the United States simply “take the oil away” from Middle Eastern countries.
“Do you mean that a war in the Middle East is worth the pleasures of your motorized recreation?” I asked.
“Sure,” said the host. His friend then suggested that anyone who gets in the way of the flow of cheap oil to America “ought’a get whacked.”
It was one of those moments of clarity when I realized how volatile our world is and how grave is the danger posed by our national addiction to oil. These men were not ignorant, only blatantly self-serving. They, like most Americans, believe in entitlement.
Don’t most Americans hold their personal luxuries above the limits of finite resources, above the sovereignty of other nations and above the sanctity of life? War for fun and luxury; that is the equation they put before me.
Multiply their attitude by millions and you have a nation of shameless, even boastful, oil addicts. I suddenly understood the mandate of the Bush administration to plan an assault against Iraq. These men and others like them are calling for a Crusade for Crude.
The irony of this revelation is that it occurred in Aspen at a gathering where an energy expert later spoke convincingly about the importance of curtailing our national dependence on foreign oil. Conservation through efficiency was the message, not war and the corrupt politics of power.
Entitlement and military domination are national traits in America. They will mire us in turmoil for as long as we further our desires by force and pursue our pleasures without a moral code. “Nine-eleven was all about oil,” said the energy speaker, “and oil alone.”
Ours is a nation without humility, only outrage when our entitlements and pleasures are threatened. Steadfastly, we claim the higher moral ground and salute our liberty and freedom as if these vaunted values translate into a garage full of V-8s and cemeteries full of human sacrifices.
[Paul Andersen thinks that oil is lubricating an already slippery slope. His column appears every Monday.]
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