Think Outside the Oil Barrel

Many of the world’s best scientists just released their latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, their thrust? To continue to rely on fossil fuels is to invite incalculable disaster. Considering the reputation past IPCC reports have earned as much too conservative this one is so alarming then that we ought to rush out with arms opened wide to embrace renewable energy and other sustainable technologies like electric cars.

We should exuberantly grow our own food, gladly reduce the amount of meat in our diets and when possible buy locally sourced goods – all to shrink our carbon footprints. To go on living as we are looks pretty suicidal.

Our president, though, assures us that the weather is actually “marvelous” and that Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay really isn’t going under. Canadians, despite the IPCC report, won’t institute a carbon tax after all.

Australia is digging coal full steam ahead. Business as usual, ignore the facts, everything is coming up roses, especially with all that carbon in the air.

Whether we’re concerned about climate change or not there are plenty of reasons to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Brown lung disease is on the rise in coal country. More loving families will be broken when the next mining tragedy occurs.

Gas explosions obliterate homes and lives; Superior and Sun Prairie come readily to mind. We know what mercury has done to the fish in our lakes, and what oil spills have done to our waters and soils. The list goes on, yet our dependence on fossil fuels persists.

The exacting price we pay for oil, gas and coal is becoming clear as it seeps into and pollutes every facet of our lives. We must ask ourselves some truly discomforting questions.

How many good women, men and children have died in wars waged over oil? How many more will suffer? How much corruption will we numbly tolerate to keep the oil flowing? Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal death in the Saudi consulate speaks volumes. Most of us have to turn off our consciences to stomach it all. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to think outside of the oil barrel.

Renewable energy, solar and wind in particular, means harvesting the free gifts of God’s nature. Nothing spills from solar panels other than electricity and good jobs. Most residential systems can run as low as $8,000. Seems like a lot until you take your $100 dollar monthly bill and run it out 30 years. Yep, $36,000. You do the math.

Combine your solar array with an electric car – new or used, your choice – and those panels are paid off about five years from now in gas savings alone. It’s a bit like signing your own declaration of personal independence. If some oil despot threatens to throttle us into submission by dramatically raising the price of oil it doesn’t matter when we’re driving on photons. Best of all it’s hard to imagine wars fought over who owns and controls the wind and sun.

Giving up the gas station ritual and producing our own electricity not only keeps our wallets a lot thicker, it also has wonderful benefits for the natural world and, perhaps, the world of power politics. By adopting new, clean energy sources and fresh, sustainable technologies we can save a lot of lives and human misery, and if the science is right stabilize our climate. Nothing wrong with that from where most of us actually sit.

Still reluctant? Maybe that’s where political will and leadership ought to stand up proud and tall. If other countries around the world can provide incentives to encourage their citizens to make this transition, ours can too. We can use our voices to demand a better, more sustainable way of life and a far healthier home amid the stars. We should use them.