The Sacred Path

Journeys through the mist

Our addiction to oil: The cost in pictures

NASA image of oil spill June 19 2010I don’t post the following to make people feel sad. I post it because there are those out there that need to wake up and really see one of the many tragic consequences of our petroleum-fueled lifestyles, and what it is doing to the world we live in and depend on for our very existence. [Cropped satellite image from NASA Earth Observatory, image of the day.]

This tragedy is the direct result our our addiction to oil, pure and simple. BP was simply the instrument we used to produce it. The Ixtoc spill in the waters off Mexico in 1979 should have been a wake up call. The Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska should have been a wake up call. All the oil spills around the world should have been wake up calls. Sadly though we have gotten too good at ignoring and forgetting. That has to change.

Change is going to come from each of us, as individuals, making conscious choices to reduce our dependence on oil and our impact on mother earth. Real change always happens from the level of the individual and then moves up though higher and higher levels of society as a whole. If you are looking for real change to come from the top down be prepared for a very long wait. True change though cannot happen until we each realize who we really are, and that we are not only all connected to one another, but to all life everywhere; the whole continuum from the smallest one-celled organisms to the Source of all life itself.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a story today titled “Gulf oil spill’s wildlife toll: sharks near shore, turtles incinerated” that I humbly suggest you read. The Christian Science Monitor I find to be a news organization with integrity and a good source of truly “fair and balanced” reporting (unlike the news organization that touts being “fair and balanced”). At the end of that story is a link to a slideshow called “Sticky mess: The Gulf oil spill’s impact on nature” that I again suggest you view. Then spend a little time thinking about what you can do personally to reduce your burden on this wonderful world. If enough people choose to make even small changes, the combined impact of those small changes can be dramatic.

One such change we can all make (and Obama, unfortunately, got a lot of flack for this during his campaign for President) is to check our tire pressure regularly and keep our tires properly inflated. According to the US Department of Energy, underinflated tires cost the US 1.25 billion gallons of gas per year; about 1 percent of our total gas consumption. One bonus to keeping our tires properly inflated is our tires will last longer. Another is that we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere. There is no downside.


  1. Is it our addiction to oil… or more simply our addiction to an imposed source of energy to live our lives?
    Throughout the decades many have developed free energy devices; Nicola Tesla, Stan Meyer (, SKDB (, John Bendini (, Bob Vila (, Nano Solar (, Methernitha (, to name a few.
    IMO, it’s our addiction to complacency and letting elected officials and their controllers keep us from what more is possible. It seems to be more about taking personal responsibility for our sovereign nature & brilliance and shaking the shackles of self-imposed slavery.
    “Benefits accepted equal jurisdiction” is a sure recipe for bondage.
    Thanks for listening.

    • First off, the house I live in is (virtually) off-grid solar with solar water heating. There is a backup 6 Amp charger running off of the grid for times when it is overcast for more than a day. The refrigerator, cooking stove and supplemental instant water heater all run on propane. Why propane? To include those appliances on the solar system would have require at least three times the capacity. It simply wasn’t economical (not to mention not enough south-facing roof area).

      I have seen no credible studies or prototypes of free energy devices that have been tested by reputable third-party researchers. I have seen quite a number of them that failed to live up to the hype though when put through testing by reputable firms.

      When looking at any energy system, one has to consider ALL the energy that went into the process of making that device; from the exploration, mining processing and transportation of the raw materials, to delivery and installation of the system, and all energy for system maintenance, replacement part, etc., required over the life of the system has to be included as well: EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested). If you don’t account for all that energy, you never have a true idea of what the system energy payback will be.

      EROEI is one of the reasons that ethanol is a boondoggle of epic proportions. When you include all the energy require to prepare the fields, plant irrigate and fertilize the crop, spray it with insecticides to keep the pesky insects from eating the crop, harvest and then transport the grain to the ethanol plant, process it, turn it into fuel and then deliver it to the distributor who has to then deliver it to the retailer, the EROEI approaches zero (0). Some say it goes negative. The only reason the ethanol producers are still in business is because they are highly subsidized by the government.

      The problem is, you can find data out there that will support any viewpoint you happen to have because there is a lot of shoddy research going on. As an example, EROEI on various types of solar panels can range anywhere from a 1.5 year payback to as high as 15 years or more. It all depends on how much of the above they include in their calculations (or how much they were paid NOT to include it). With solar, you also have to consider where the system is installed. If it is installed in Phoenix, Arizona, the energy payback will be quicker than if it is installed in northern Michigan.

      A friend who has a solar installation has been keeping track of simple payback on the system which supplies him with about 50% (winter) to about 80% (summer) of his electricity. The system is well designed and there is no overcharging of the batteries and such, but when he includes battery replacement, repair, maintenance and failed equipment replacement, he says he has concluded the system will never reach payback. Every time it looks like he will reach that magic payback point, he has to have maintenance, repair work or equipment replaced. He’s quit keeping track because it frustrated him so.

    • Stefano, I’ll directly address part of what you said in your comment in this reply since including it in the other response – which was more of a general response – would have made it too long.

      I agree that complacency and apathy are problems and that our elected officials are swayed by all the $ spent by big business (BB) on lobbying and favors. What we have for government right now is simply pathetic – from the top down. The People don’t have a voice anymore. That is partly because BB has the (paid) ear of our elected officials, and partly because of complacency and apathy. All of this “We The People” have allowed to happen, right in front of our faces.

      Following are five links to what I consider required reading from an incredible journalist, Michael Ventura, who has the ability to look at things from a much wider and clearer perspective than most people. The series is called, “O” is for Oligarchy.

      Michael Ventura O is for Oligarchy Part 1

      Michael Ventura O is for Oligarchy Part 2

      Michael Ventura O is for Oligarchy Part 3

      Michael Ventura O is for Oligarchy Part 4

      Michael Ventura O is for Oligarchy Part 5

  2. Very reasoned article, Richard. My thoughts tell me that eventually, hopefully good will come out of this. Such crises often push our paradigms to form new possibilities.
    What you say about not waiting for change to come from the top down is well. Change, though, in my opinion, really truly can come from within, and then inspire action in the world.

    • Hi Muse, I’m hoping for good things will come out of this as well. If it doesn’t, what is up around the bend will just be that much more difficult. That doesn’t mean we won’t get through it, just that it will be harder than it had to be.
      Blessings back to you as well.

  3. Very thought provoking. I think it’s both – certainly our government has not put the economic pressure on to lead us out of the oil addiction – and in truth, it’s usually economics that talk sadly. But also our addiction as well. I guess it’s about our small personal choices, and writing to our elected officials. And I agree, sometimes terrible events bring about good change, let’s hope! I have worked for years in alternative medicine, living a largely natural, organic life, but my home is plain old on the grid and for me, this disaster has made me want to finally make the push to do something about that. Just one house, 4 people, but that’s how change occurs I guess.

    • “…and in truth, it’s usually economics that talk sadly.”

      Too true. Economics has trumped common sense and the “better good” for quite some time. You can see it in the GOM right now where Louisiana is screaming about the oil spill in the wetlands and fragile coastal areas, but when the drilling moratorium was announced they screamed even louder about that. I understand there are jobs at stake, but sheesh!

      “Just one house, 4 people, but that’s how change occurs I guess.”

      That is where it has to start. It won’t be some organized group effort, it will be individuals and families making the decision to start simplifying their lives and living more in tune with nature, and as more do it, neighborhoods and then communities will start to cooperate and move in that direction. It will all happen naturally and with no need for bureaucracies, or organizational charts, or mission statements, or the election of officers.

  4. Part of the problem is that government regulations discourage simple solutions to some of our problems. Almost 30 years ago we built a house, by hand, of native rock & what we could scavenge or buy used. We followed the county regulations for the septic system but never got a permit or had inspectors come to fine us for common-sense practices, such as putting gray water out for plantings, esp. vines & trees planted to provide shade. We were at least 20 years ahead of time. House incorporates passive solar but we are still on the grid, as our monthly electric bill is far less than the cost of installing active solar. Everything has been designed for desert living, including a small greenhouse (read: “cool house”)- we try to co-exist with our small desert friends but that makes it hard to grow much food! It has been gratifying to see that much of what was illegal 30 years ago is now encouraged, including not over-building floor space, etc. I am not advocating it, of course, but sometimes it pays to quietly be a scofflaw on the planet’s – and your own – behalf.

    • Mary, what you have done is going to become more common as the years go on. Bureaucracies have a (sometimes) bad habit of trying to protect us from ourselves, and try to force us into their vision of what is right or proper. Passive solar is so inexpensive and can make such a big difference in the colder times of the year. If I had stayed in Wyoming, I had plans to do a passive solar addition on the front of my house. With the savings you get from incorporating passive solar, as you have found, you can stay on-grid because your utility bills will go down considerably.

  5. The economic model we have embraced is the “3 legged stool” (economy – environment – society) is a faulty model. The ground for all is the environment and humans are an integral part of it. Without it we have nothing – no economy – no society. Yet so many have bought into the faulty model that I cannot help but despair for our planet, our generation and generations yet to come.

    Democracy isn’t working because we have adopted a faulty model. We expect our “leaders” to demonstrate the “three pillars of good decision making” ie. balancing social, environmental and economic concerns. What we fail to recognize is that the environment, of which we are a part, is grounds for all.

    The conquest of the environment for profit at any cost will continue to erode democracy and has corrupted the role of governments and international trade organizations. They are not our leaders not can they be. They act only as agents and promoters of amoral transnational corporations that are rapaciously devouring the earth’s resources and polluting the planet that must sustain us all.

    Until we recognize that the crisis in the way we humans govern ourselves is due to viewing ourselves as being separate and apart from the environment that sustains all, no real changes will be made.

    Some may think I am cynical and missing the point because I may not sound like I’m on the green bandwagon but those who know me know how very basic my lifestyle is. Yes, we must do what each of us can do personally to reduce our ecological footprint and dependency on oil. Yes, if enough of us choose to make the shift the impact will be dramatic. But unless and until we get rid of the faulty “3 legged stool” economic model the corporate power brokers will ensure we remain addicted to oil.

  6. Richard, I’m so glad you are addressing this important issue. I agree that change must come from the ground up. We are all complicity in the oil spill.

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