Why Is It so Impossible to Quit Oil and Gas?

The beautiful bits

We are globally sharing a moment.

He skies are bluer, water is clearer, the traffic is less noisy and foul. The birds are singing, and can live their lives without such clamor and pollution. At night, people cleared of a blanket of city smog can even see the milky way, and think, WOW!

People fortunate enough to escape lockdown for rare moments of nature bonding, are smiling at one another. They are encountering wildlife with thrilling, faster heartbeats. They are noticing the world (when off their devices) with new eyes, and alert minds.

Our awakened minds are wondering, “Why can’t we create this again?”

With more free time, and slower mindfulness, why not spend less time in traffic? Why not get to know the neighbors? Why not have a community garden to augment shortages, and instill reassurance?

Why not put people before products, and planet before productivity?

In short, people see the potential of a less polluted, frenzied, and high pressure-to-produce world and think: Why not?

We are human animals

Unless we really apply ourselves to improve the world and make sure we have a say in the kind of lives we wish, it reels on. The old Earth spins on with the destruction, habitat loss, poverty, and pollution, and more pandemics to come.

We created a world dependent upon fossil fuels, and although by now, the majority of people understand this is destructive, they can’t alter their habits unless a microscopically tiny virus comes along and alters us the world for us.

We are reactive, rather than proactive. We live by our habits and expectations. We want to feel secure with a pantry stuffed with toilet paper and spam. It’s hard to contemplate the alternative, which in the human mind, primed for fight, flight, or freeze, in a crisis, jumps to one of these options, and stays there.

Where does the money go?

It feels right now that we are in freeze mode. Most people are not proactively online demanding the changes we need in the world. While we self-isolate in “wait and see” mode, the darker forces are busy. Very busy.

All those taxes dollars you contributed by being productive at your former job? And, the sales taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, income taxes (state and federal) and excise taxes? They all go in one form or another to prop up the present system.

The present system brought us both the climate crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In nature, nothing evolves without an environment, AND the life form itself (The coronavirus is not an organism, so I am just calling it, dubiously, a life form) that evolves in that system.

Most people, let’s admit it, don’t even know the five major kinds of taxes that they pay. It is so unpleasant to think about taxes, that we ignore any responsibility for where they go.

Excise tax for example, benefits oil and gas production enormously. Did you know that about twenty cents, 20 cents, of every gallon of gas that you buy goes to support the system and networks that brought us here?

Most people don’t know that. I did not know that.

Benefits and privileges of being Big Oil

At least fifty million, $50,000,000, of tax funded dollars are also going to fossil fuel companies in the newest move to subsidize and prop up the industry. At least twenty-eight million of that, $28,000,000, is going to just three U.S. coal producing plants. This is reported today in the Guardian.

Yes, it is great to protect workers, there, but all of we who really prefer such subsidy go toward green energy re-training, pollinator migration, and comforting community gardens, should be outraged that, instead, it is most likely to go to those at the top of big extraction firms.

According to International Environmental Law, such fossil fuel corporations are “exploiting the crisis by aggressively lobbying for massive bailouts and special privileges in a desperate attempt to revive an oil and gas industry already in decline.”

To put it another way, the people don’t yet have the clout and power to just say “NO!” to the big oil and gas industries.

There is a way for us to get the power, and that is to demand it. Yet, just as bad habits take huge investments in good habits, our addictions to oil, gas, production, and industry norms are proving very hard to quit.

We drive to work. We love our independence and autonomy. Some feel so threatened by potential loss of it, that they buy into the propaganda of liberty over community health.

Knowing better to do better

Then there is the question of knowing about it.

Most of us likely do not know the reality of this graph: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-anatomy-of-the-2-trillion-covid-19-stimulus-bill/

It is very difficult once the facts are presented, to accept that as a species, we are subsidizing a $2 Trillion dollar CARES stimulus package for every man, woman, and child, hospital and food program in the USA to have assistance, while at the same time, we subsidize much more than that to prop up fossil fuels.

According to the International Monetary Fund, we all chip in to the $5. 2 TRILLION in subsidies, that we all pay annually to fossil fuels.

But that’s not enough for Big Oil. Note that the largest chunk of stimulus after individuals ($600 billion) goes to large corporations ($500 billion). One wonders, how come the already richest on Earth always need more, more, more?

It’s because they want to squeeze out every drop of profit and pay no externalized (public health and clean up) costs at all.

The hammer we all hold

One of the few tools people are given is an election. Most people want to choose wisely when it comes to their values. But, others simply take the slow crisis “freeze” option because politics has become every bit as contaminated with toxins as is our waterways, air, and most especially, our most vulnerable communities.

Who can help but be cynical when every four years, no matter the devastating news of global collapse, pandemics, fires, floods, and extinction, we are given only tepid options of the status quo?

In a democracy, the people are supposed to have a say. But given the electoral college, propaganda, fear-mongering with xenophobia, racism, sexism, voter suppression, cynicism, cronyism, and just plain paralyzation of the human spirit, we will only get what we fight for in this struggle.

Let’s hope we fight for our lives.

This post was previously published on Greener Together and is republished here with permission from the author.


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Photo credit: Christyl Rivers