Oil is made from the skeletons of creatures that are millions of years old, then pumped up to the ground to provide fuel for cars, aeroplanes and energy to heat and cool our homes. But the process is very polluting and contributes to climate change. It also fuels wars (nearly all countries with nuclear weapons have strong ties to the oil industry). The alternative is to create a clean economy, which helps world peace and builds resilient towns & cities.
What is not the answer is replacing bad energy with more of the same (wind turbines everywhere which kill bird and bats, and maintenance means trucks driving down newly-built roads etc). Ecological writer Satish Kumar once said that you can’t (to parody Einsten) solve a problem using the same thought that created it. In this case ‘keep living the same with huge consumerism, just switch the technology). You have to come from a different viewpoint and work with nature, in the realm of simple living and using huge less energy. That means funding local foods (no central distribution markets heating up international imported food that then sends trucks that use fuel thundering down motorways to deliver to 24/7 lit supermarkets that people need to drive to.
Transition Towns have the aim of becoming resilient (ie. they will be fine when the oil runs out or gets too expensive). We are already seeing this now, with energy prices sky-high and people have to pay, because unlike transition towns, they don’t have community solar panels to pay the town’s bills, nor free food growing in the health centre, school and rail station platforms. Transition towns have 25% less road traffic (no supermarket lorries needed) and tend to use less goods made from oil (like plastic bags). They can cut energy bills to almost nothing, and it’s nothing to do with going on comparison sites!
Countries that use the most oil are the US, China, India, Russia, Japan and Saudi Arabia. Presently England gets around 6% of oil from Russia, but the whole of Europe gets around 40% of its energy from a country that has used its global economic power to fund weapons (opposed by the countries that funded them). So you can see that by removing dependence on oil, we help to create world peace.
Oil will also eventually run out (in less than 100 years according to experts). Or even in 40 years (just 200 years after beginning to extract it). Fracking makes gas by doing something dodgy to the earth, and has concerns over cancer in the water supply (some people have reported fire coming out of their taps). Any form of energy that can ‘set water on fire’ is obviously not quite right. Liz Truss reversed the ban, but thankfully that was reversed again after her short stint as PM. The line was ‘only if communities agree’. What people would agree to turn their taps on to catch on fire and get cancer, is anybody’s guess.
Ways We Can Use Less Oil
- Live simply, and don’t subscribe the government’s mantra of ‘buy more for economic growth’. Use reusables over disposables made from plastic (oil). Grocery bags, toothbrushes, cutlery, coffee cups, water bottles etc.
- Switch to a greener energy company like Ecotricity (does not use animal by-products to create its electricity and gas). But just as much, use less of it (don’t give yourself hypothermia and turn the heating down, but do turn off unused appliances etc). This company will also install solar panels on business buildings, and you can generate your own clean energy.
- Choose biodegradable beauty and cleaning brands (avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing and keep away from pets/babies). Avoid brands made with petroleum jelly (Vaseline), paraffin oil or mineral oil.
- Eat organic produce from local markets and farm shops or grow your own food (see make your garden safe for pets to know toxic plants and mulches to avoid). Most non-organic produce uses pesticides that are made from oil.
- Choose clothing made from organic cotton, hemp or linen, over oil-derived polyester or nylon.
- Vote for parties that want an oil-free society. Even it’s just a local councillor to challenge the status quo. Avoid voting for any MP that promotes or lobbies for the oil industry.
- If you travel abroad, consider being a flightless traveller some of the time, and use the train, bus or ferry.
Using Less Oil as a Driver
Obviously drivers use the most oil (unless you’re a pilot!) It’s not realistic for everyone to be car-free at present. But there are lots of ways to help, other than driving less! Also read these tips to be a greener driver.
- If you can’t afford an electric car, you could join a car-sharing club. If you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, these work out way cheaper. You pay an hourly charge, and they pay for everything else (the car, parking, repairs, MOT, cleaning, tax, fuel and breakdown cover).
- Use a waterless car wash (or professional car wash that recycles the water). Oil spills cause birds and water voles to freeze or drown, by affecting waterproofing/insulation of feathers and fur. Driveway/supermarket car washes cause oily water to go untreated down storm drains, into the sea. Oil spills also harm fish and frogs (by stopping sun/oxygen getting to the surface. And humans (contaminated drinking water and building vapours).
- Engine oil does not wear it (it just gets dirty). So switch to re-refined engine oil that takes 85% less energy to produce (one gallon compared to 42 gallons of crude oil is akin to taking 200,000 cars off the road). Always use a funnel when changing motor oil. Antifreeze is lethal to pets (has a sweet taste) so have your mechanic change it or use a funnel in an enclosed space with propylene glycol (think P for protection , safer but not safe for pets/wildlife/children so still lock away). Read how to clean up spilled antifreeze.
Books the Planet Would Like You To Read
- The Oil Depletion Protocol is by climate expert Richard Heinberg. This is a plan for nations worldwide to voluntarily reduce their consumption of oil production (and imports) to a consistent and sensible formula, with a long-term plan to go oil-free.
- Oil Wars asks why oil-rich countries are always the main ones to go to war. The authors say that the main reason is because having oil-rich countries creates a different character to society and economy – focused mostly on money and economic growth, rather than peace and environmental stewardship. It looks at the relationship between oil and war in 6 regions (Angola, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Russia). Each country not only has big oil reserves, but a long history of conflict.
All of the easy oil is gone, and what’s left is requiring more energy and money. As oil becomes more expensive, we really need to start building an alternative economy, before we get caught in a trap of our own making. Richard Heinberg