Oil has gotten a bad rap in recent decades. Concern over global
warming, the troubling geopolitics of supply lines, and the recent
Deepwater Horizon spill have led politicians and voters alike to
describe oil as an "addiction," which is "almost by definition ... something one is healthier without," as Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby
remarks. But Jacoby reminds
readers of the other side of the coin, the jointly obvious and oft-forgotten fact: "oil-based
energy improves human health and reduces poverty--it makes life longer,
safer, and better." It's not just an energy source. Petroleum leads to
"plastics, synthetic fibers, lubricants, waxes, asphalt," as well as
"'ink, crayons, bubble gum, dishwashing liquids, deodorant, eyeglasses,
CDs and DVDs, tires, ammonia, [and] heart valves.'" He makes the case
viewing oil as "a blessing," rather than an addiction:
Someday there may be an energy source that is as abundant,
efficient, clean, and economically viable as oil. But nothing today
fits that bill--certainly not biofuels, wind farms, or solar power.
course there are problems created by oil, as the Deepwater Horizon
calamity so heartbreakingly demonstrates. But most things of great
value come with downsides. There are 40,000 traffic fatalities in the
United States each year, but no rational person suggests doing away
with cars, trucks, and highways. Airplanes sometimes crash and boats
sometimes sink, but air and sea travel are not derided as "addictions"
we need to break. Deaths due to hospital infections, medication errors,
or unnecessary surgery number in the scores of thousands annually, but
who would recommend an end to medical care?
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