Why Do We Still Cling to Oil?

Oil has become the driving force that has made several families, some of them wealthy to start with, incredibly rich. They are so rich that they are able to buy up whole governments to make their way to even greater fortunes. But the downside is that use of oil as a fuel for energy has grave implications for the environment and even the continuance of life on this planet. One wonders why the rich, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that global warming will destroy civilization as we know it and possibly the entire human race along with many other living beings, don’t put all their money into cornering the market on renewable energy. It would seem the smart thing to do.

The obvious reason is that the rich have too much of their money tied up in oil contracts, drilling rights, machinery and refineries to let go. All this investment in oil is certainly one reason not to let go of this dirty industry but there are other reasons as well. One of the biggest is plastics. Oil byproducts are used to make plastic. Plastic has become one of the most used materials on the planet with billions of pounds made every year for a multitude of purposes. This translates into billions of dollars for those involved in plastic production. It is also a reason that despite the damage done to the environment and the availability of less polluting plastics that can now be made of hemp, the production of hemp in this country has been set back at every turn.

As one dives into the workings of the oil industry, one finds a rather complicated system of protection for it that started right at the beginning. Oiligarchs used suppression of competing industries as one of their main strategies for maintaining their wealth. For instance, the US had a great start on public transportation with electric railroads providing service to millions in large cities. This was anathema to the oil industry. Not only did public transportation put the hex on the sales of cars that used gas as a fuel, but the trains ran on electricity. So the oiligarchs used their money and power to gain control over the public transport so they could destroy thousands of miles of rails and rail cars used for this system replacing them with an inefficient fleet of gas driven busses the management of which made a mess of city travel. This was a similar move to the one they used to upset Henry Ford’s plans to create cars that ran on both gasoline and alcohol. They made huge contributions to the temperance movement and got alcohol banned for a few years while gas became the fuel of no other choice.

Manipulation like this brought in tons of money, but not as much as was to come from other industries that were soon to be tied to oil. Rubber used to be the main component in tires, but with WWII rubber became a problem. The number of tires needed for war outnumbered the number of rubber trees that were not owned by the Japanese. A viable substitute that outlasted the war was a rubber-like product made from petroleum.

Next up was the pharmaceutical industry. Most folks don’t realize it, but many of the drugs that are used in medicine today come from derivatives of oil. There are more billions of dollars to be made here and the corporatists did not blink an eye as drugs became the main way of treating disease. But this was not the end of their profits. Having discovered how much money there was too great to have another world war so they decided on smaller ones. The United States of Amerika, that bastion of democracy and decency, became the front-runner in the creation of small wars designed to try out new weapons, use up a lot of ammunition and weapons and be instrumental in regime changes throughout the world. War has indeed become so popular with the financial sector and the oil industry in particular that we’ve had one going almost every year since WWII. The US has become the largest customer of oil on the planet. It uses more fuels made from oil than any other entity on the planet. To keep all those vehicles moving it has also become one of the largest markets for tires and plastics as well as the various metals. In addition, it produces more greenhouse gases, more chemical and radioactive pollution than any other entity on earth. And we also sell more weapons than any other country as well.

The impact of all this can be seen in the loss of life across the globe as the US wanders through its wars. It can be seen at home in the militarization of police, suicide rate of veterans, deterioration of infrastructure and the continued movement of the US government toward fascism. It can even be seen in the education system which has been effectively privatized so that a student must go into debt to get an education that leads to a job that pays just enough to pay on their debt. But there is an out: join the military and they will pay for your education and your healthcare while you are enlisted. With Universal Healthcare and Free Public Education extending into college level, there would be no incentive to join the armed forces to risk one’s life killing people in other lands.*

This is not the complete story, of course. It gets even more despicable than this, but I have distilled it down to the best of my ability. If you need more to convince you that the US military needs a muzzle and the impacts of the oiligarchs on our world, do some research and you will easily find what you are looking for. Start by reading some of Howard Zinn. He does a great job of bringing to life a history that has been forgotten or papered over. In the meantime, if you want to keep on living and you want social justice to be the rule and not the exception, join the fight against war, fossil fuels and the destruction of civil rights by corporatists such as Obama, Bush, and Trump just to name a couple.

*Thank you to Renee Upshaw for this observation posted in a meme on Facebook.




I am a writer living in Oregon. My writings can be found on this site and on my website, www.irawhite.net. I am now retired from the USDA.

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Ira Lee White

Ira Lee White

I am a writer living in Oregon. My writings can be found on this site and on my website, www.irawhite.net. I am now retired from the USDA.

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