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Category — Oil Addiction

One Person’s Oil Addict is Another’s Intelligent Consumer

In the last few weeks, rhetoric about America’s oil addiction has resurfaced, years after being pushed by former President George W. Bush.  It is meant to explain the inability of Americans to become energy independent or at least to significantly reduce consumption.  The implication is that consumers are either foolish or brainwashed, and that the government is a slave to the oil industry’s lobby. 

I submit that this claim reveals an ideological bias, as well as a degree of energy illiteracy.  

Such illiteracy is not new and is often battled by economists.  For example, when I was at MIT, one class was taught by an engineer who believed that oil was underpriced because it cost less than mineral water.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that this is a common misconception:  the prices of the two are completely unrelated.  

Now there is a new litmus test for energy illiteracy, namely the claim that America is ‘addicted to oil.’ Those stating this are either being less than honest (politicians and special interests) or have failed to comprehend either addiction or economics.  For example, why say Americans are addicted to oil, but not food, housing and clothing?  Or cement or steel?  It is easy to compare the traditional types of addiction with the reliance on these substances to see where oil falls on the spectrum.

What is ‘Addiction’? 

Addictive substances typically cause changes in brain behavior, create a sense of euphoria but also reduce productive activity, making citizens less capable and/or less interested in being productive.  They serve primarily to stimulate pleasure and often distort mental processes, creating biochemical dependencies to the point where those consuming the substances sacrifice their careers, livelihoods, families and everything they hold dear to acquire it on a continual basis.  While there are many functioning addicts, there are also huge numbers whose lives have been ruined by their addictions.  (Just watch “Behind the Music” on VH1.) [Read more →]

July 21, 2010   9 Comments