The recent oil spill in the Gulf Coast has sent shockwaves throughout the nation, serving as a wake-up call to many Americans about our dependence on oil and the pressing need for comprehensive environmental policies. Nationwide conversations have been sparked about the disaster: who to blame, what we can do, and what improvements would be best for our future. One general consensus has emerged: the United States is far too dependent on oil for our own good.
In a recent discussion at the Center for American Progress, Jerome Ringo, Senior Executive for Global Strategies, Green Port, stated that the U.S. has an addiction to oil. Jokingly, he argued that the best way to cure this addiction is to follow the AA 12-step program—with admission as the first step. And with images of the BP oil spill constantly being pushed in front of our faces, we can hardly deny that yes, we do have a problem.
The U.S. is hugely dependent on foreign oil – we import 57% of our oil, 70% of which comes from countries with whom we generally do not have good relationships. Our dependence on oil poses a great threat to our military, but also to our economy and our environment. Unforeseen disasters from offshore drilling can devastate our coastal regions and wildlife, as seen by the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
The United States comprises only 5% of the world’s population. Yet we use 25% of the world’s resources and emit 35% of the world’s carbon emissions. These numbers are drastically disproportional and should cause alarm. We need to be responsible for the consequences of our dependence on oil. We need to demand cleaner energy and fewer carbon emissions. We need to invest in new technology that will provide more sustainable energy and a diversified economy, while at the same time creating new “green” jobs. We need to demand that elected officials are made aware of the consequences of our dependence on oil and create new policies that promote innovation and protect our environment.
But most importantly, we, as citizens of the United States, need to take personal responsibility for our addiction to and overconsumption of oil. One of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint is to simply be more efficient with the resources we do have. Increase your gas mileage by buying a car with a high mpg or by updating your car’s engine (Go here  for more ways to make your car fuel efficient). Use public transportation, bike or walk to work, and take the train the next time you have to go out of town. You can also research ways to make your home  energy-efficient, such as turning the thermostat up a little in the summer or down a little in the winter.
Demanding cleaner energy and carbon-reducing policies are essential to curing our addiction to oil that has caused one of the greatest environmental disasters in the history of the United States. Yet, if we truly care about solving our energy and environmental problems, we must also challenge ourselves to take responsibility and be more energy and fuel efficient – which may mean that we need to change our habits. As the CAP discussion concluded, why do we insist that men wear suit coats in the summer?