Sunday, October 19, 2008

America Running on Empty

I watch a lot of public tv. I particularly like Link TV. If you have satellite you should have this channel.

I recently watched a documentary titled, "America Running on Empty; The End of Suburbia".

It spoke about our ever growing dependence on oil and natural gas and what it is doing to our economy.

I am not a fanatic about the environment. I do recycle cans and I do have a compost bin. I try not to drive a lot. The town I live in does not recycle so I don't have the means to recycle a lot. I do donate magazines to schools and libraries and I do recycle newspapers and plastic bags. That's about it.

This particular documentary talked about how the suburbs came about and how we are suffering now and will suffer in the future because of our dependence on oil. So I wanted to share the highlights with y'all. So here are some "did you knows"

  1. From the 1950's to the 1970's cities were literally gutted because of people moving to the suburbs. Because there was nothing in the burbs, we depended on our cars to get us everywhere from work to the grocer. This lead to the building of the expressway system which is a highly subsidized system.
  2. Originally, there were light rail systems paid for by developers that ran to the suburbs. These were bought up and destroyed by: GM Firestone and Standard Oil. These 3 companies bought up the light rail systems and tore them out. Why? So they could build GM buses with Firestone tires that ran on Standard Oil. They were convicted on this.
  3. In the 1930's we were discovering so much oil in Texas that is was cheaper than drinking water. At one time more than half the oil produced came from Texas and did for decades.
  4. Everything we do or use is based on oil. From sports to food either it is transported by vehicles that use oil or it is made from oil.
  5. In North America we consume 10 calories of hydrocarbon energy for every 1 calorie of food we eat. This does not include transportation and cooking.
  6. Food prices will really skyrocket. We will no longer be able to grow food the way we do now. Because of all the pesticides we have put on our soil it has degraded to the point that it is almost like a sponge. Then we pour petroleum based chemicals on this soil to grow food. All fertilizers are made from natural gas and all pesticides are made from petroleum. That statement was a real eye opener for me.

I hear a lot of talk about "peak oil". Matthew Simmons stated that "if Saudi Arabia has peaked, the world has peaked". From what I could gather, the information available on peak oil is unreliable at best and a downright lie at worst. No one knows for sure when oil will peak. Most say we are at the peak now and some say 2010 is the peak. Either way, oil is running out. Simmons also stated that future growth is not possible because of the depletion of natural gas, electricity, and fossil fuels. I personally think we can grow but it will be slower because we have to wean ourselves off these resources and learn to use other renewable resources.

What I didn't realize was just how much we import from China. If we have to compete with them for oil, our economy will suffer in ways I don't think we have considered.

When I watch shows like this I get really angry. I remember the fuel shortage of the 70's. That was a really tough time in America. We had the opportunity then to do something to make a difference and we didn't. i feel deceived and insulted by those in charge that have let greed get in the way of common sense.

I am closing with a quote from the show. I can't remember the guy's name but what a poignant quote.

"Now we are stuck in a cul-de-sac with a cement SUV with an empty gas tank."


  1. Small Footprints said...
    Excellent post!

    It is so frustrating when "those that know" talk about drilling for more oil rather than developing renewable resources. It's also frustrating that greedy special interest groups have manipulated us into this position. So now, more than ever, I believe we each need to pay attention to our choices ... even the small ones.

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Small Footprints
    Brian said...
    Great write up. The quote is very thought provoking. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing.
    John said...
    500 billion... that's how much America owes China now...

    We need to help spread the word on reducing our dependence on petroleum and start using more of alternative energy.

    Thanks for this post, a great reminder.

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