Last night at Boston University, a group of speakers talked about our dependence on oil. The forum panelists explored the reasons for getting off oil — which are many — and the approaches to getting off oil: better cars, better fuels, less driving.
But the forum didn’t really get to the important question: Why haven’t we already gotten off of oil? Jon Stewart’s framing of this question is as powerful as it is amusing, although his answer is only more humor.
My take is that getting off oil involves lifestyle changes that most of us aren’t really ready to make. We are in denial about how much damage we are doing through our oil consumption — just as most drunks can’t fully face the damage they are doing by drinking and can’t leave the lifestyle that supports their drinking. We haven’t made much progress on climate change because we really haven’t gotten motivated to do so yet.
I went on in that talk to argue that we had to reframe the urgency of fossil fuel reduction around security issues — just as real, but more compelling than environmental issues. The thrust of Stewart’s point is that national security framing, which many Presidents have tried, may not really be that much more compelling. On the other hand, both the environmental and the national security arguments for aggressive action on fossil fuel seem to be getting stronger every year. So, the fact that we haven’t gotten serious in the past may not mean that we won’t in the future . . .