I rode my bike to work all summer. It's about a fifteen mile round-trip, so it's not a trivial thing. I was injured recently and haven't riden much in the last month, but I do intend to ride to work all winter and next year, too.
So what's this got to do with anything?
Simple solutions only work when they change basic assumptions.
One of the basic assumptions that permeates American culture is that everyone needs a car. This is in fact wrong. People who spend greater than %95 of the year within a 10 mile radius of home do not need a car, and that's true of most people who live in big cities.
Cars have also created the need for cars. It's a calculatable fact that if you add up the space occupied by all of the cars in the United States and divide it into the area of all of the paved roads and parking lots in the United States, the quotient is somewhere around ten (I forget what the exact figure was, but it doesn't really matter because it flucuates with the paving of roads and the production of cars). It's also a calculatable fact that about %40 of any given munipality's land area is paved public ways and parking space for cars. The result of relying on cars is that our cities spread outward -- urban sprawl -- and as they do so, it becomes more vital for a person to own a car because the distances involved in getting anywhere are that much greater. The simple solution is to live in a location where everything you need is near enough that you only need to use a car occassionally. The less you actually use your car, the more that ratio of paved space to occupied space can shrink, and therefore our cities need not devote so much space to cars. Over time, the metropolitan area itself will shrink making it easier for people to drive less and less as the distances they have to travel become less and less. This of course assumes that people can shake the belief that they absolutely must own a car, which I know is not true for a vast, vast number of people in the United States.
But, suppose it happens. With less driving, that means less time spent commuting (more time for, for instance, raising a family), more exercise if you walk or ride a bike instead, less emissions into the environment, less public spending on pavement (in other words, more for something else, or possibly less taxes), and, in keeping with the subtopic at hand, less dependence on any source of oil, including Middle Eastern oil.
Our dependence on oil does not truly exist. It is a function of choices that we do not have to make, but are compelled to make by the society we live in. I have chosen to ride a bike to get where I need to go. In part, that decision was based on a desire to reduce my personal dependence on oil (I do however, still use things made of plastic and occassionally ride the bus).
There is no denying that the United States government has taken steps to ensure that the West can get oil from the Middle East, and we can argue till the day we die whether those actions are good or bad or any shade of gray in a 1950's era rainbow. Whether they are in fact good, or are in fact bad doesn't matter. What matters is that regardless of what the United States does, it's going to piss off someone in the Middle East. Since democratic governments are in short supply in that particular region, that person, or more likely that group, won't have any means to express their grievances except through terrorism.
I couldn't possibly state it quite so eloquently, so here is a quote by Scott Frank (I have no idea who this is, but he's eloquent): "We can kill everyone involved in plotting this tragedy, but as long as we maintain our dependence on oil and the corresponding foreign policy, others will take their place."
So even though the Bush administration would prefer that we spend more, use more, and consume more, I urge you to actually think about whether or not that's a good idea for each resource that you use. I hope I have made the case in favor of actually using less oil, however you choose to do it.
i heard someone suggest that we should help the US, just like they helped us in WWII. By waiting three years, then going over there, flashing our money around, shagging all the women and acting like we owned the place. --Seen in #tron
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