I was born and raised in West Texas when oil was plentiful and jobs in the industry were common place. I was weaned on a car that got ten miles to a gallon of gas and the cost for a gallon was only 25 cents. None of us were concerned about the availability and cost of gas. In college, I remember a science professor stating that America was running out of oil and that the day would come when we would have to (in his words) “squeeze it from the rocks.” I thought he was being a bit dramatic about it all; but, it was only three years later when America faced gas rationing the like we had not seen since World War II.
In those Jimmy Carter years, we would lose our innocence as we learned bitter lessons about the impact of oil on our global economy. My professor’s prophecy has come true. We are now squeezing oil from the rocks–even as we continue to act as though there are unlimited supplies of the stuff. The price fluctuates depending upon the monopolies that control it. This summer I paid upward to five dollars a gallon in California. Today I’m paying less than two dollars. There is no justification for these differences except for the fact that one nation in the Middle East wishes to drive prices down in order to achieve greater control of oil for the future. As I watch these things unfold, I’m not as innocent as I once was. Even though the car I drive today gets 39 mpg on the road; I now understand that oil has a high cost that extends well beyond what I pay at the pump.
I’ve watched proxy wars waged in the Middle East because of the stuff. Our involvement in these wars has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. I’ve watched as large oil companies go about using imminent domain laws to seize private property for pumps and pipelines so that they might send barrels of oil from our country to other nations–to the highest bidder–while insisting that they pay few if any taxes to help our own nation. I’ve watched big oil traded as a futures commodity–vastly increasing the cost to the user–while making exorbitant profits for the companies and wall street. I’ve watched energy companies buy our politicians and change the laws to allow them to do what they wish at the state and national levels–all the while stating that “corporations are people” and “money is speech.”
I’ve watched energy companies fight against other rival forms of energy independence–such as wind, solar, and ocean tides. I’ve watched as gigantic oil spills have soiled our beaches and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the ocean. I’ve watched oil companies fight against any form of social responsibility towards maintaining the environment or assume responsibility when they contaminate drinking water. In my state of Oklahoma, I’ve watched large energy corporations fire thousands of people at one time as they move to other states or “adjust to the marketplace”–sometimes leaving behind an empty skyscraper to grace the skyline like a giant tombstone.
These are just a few of the things that I’ve seen since those teenaged years when I was driving that gas guzzler of a car. I have an oil sadness because I know that the leaders of my nation do not have the collective desire or will to seek energy independence beyond the talk necessary to get voters to elect them. Most likely, we will continue doing exactly as we have done. As the resources get scarcer–there is even more money and profits to be made and more power to be had.