What is the true cost of oil?

September 18, 2001 at 1:53 am
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Here is a letter to the editor I wrote to the NY Times, asking "What is the true cost of oil?" No, I never got a response, nor have I ever seen a good analysis of the question. I would love to have that information if anybody ever comes across it!
To the Editor, the Times:

As I have been educating myself during the last week about "America’s New
War," it appears to me that this conflict, the ‘war’ that seems imminent,
the Gulf War, and well, most of our engagements in the Middle East over the
last two decades or so, has ultimately been about one thing: oil. Our utter
dependence on it, our commitment to it, and the fact that our leadership
(now, and 10 years ago) mainly consists of people who have made millions off
it, and who have no interest in pursuing anything other than the
preservation of the existing oil industry.

I would like to challenge the Times to put less energy into the ‘human
interest’ stories about the terrorist attacks, and more into solid
journalism about how we got here. I would like to challenge any of the major
media organizations to produce a story that tallies the true cost of
oil–including the human cost of oil.

Consider the Gulf War, the war in Sudan, and the many other conflicts that
have taken millions of human lives in the pursuit of cheap oil. Contrast
that with Dick Cheney’s comments this summer that "Conservation may be a
sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound,
comprehensive energy policy." Ask the questions that no journalistic
organization seems to have asked yet: why do we consider oil the cheapest
source of energy, when it has cost far more human lives than any other
source? Why is our national energy policy so completely committed to oil,
when it is clear that it is a diminishing, non-renewable resource, ever
fraught with conflict and aggression, and when so many alternatives exist
that are nearly free and do not involve our reliance on any other nation?
Why are so many renewable, environmentally sound fuel alternatives–like
soybean oil, hemp oil, used vegetable oil, and solar power–automatically
dismissed on political grounds, when there is virtually no political
opposition to invading other countries and killing civilians to ensure a
steady flow of fossil fuel?

Why has no one added up the true cost of oil? Why is that not a part of the
current public debate? Are there any truly independent journalistic voices
in the major media, or are they all covering only the stories that won’t
disturb the status quo and most importantly, their advertisers and owners?

I am just a citizen, not a journalist, and I don’t have the resources or
knowledge to answer these question for myself. But I sure wish somebody
would.

Sincerely,
–C

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