Lying to Ourselves About Oil

Back on June 11, 2010, I noted that the Brits thought we were being rather hypocritical in our outrage over the BP Oil spill. If we were really all that concerned, argued the Brits, we would be more moderate in our consumption, have no love affair with the SUV and enact Pigou taxes on fuel consumption:

“[BP was] trying to fulfill our own reckless and irresponsible demands for cheap and plentiful energy. Anyone who is an energy consumer cannot ignore their contribution to what happened.

We can be a bit hypocritical in the US of A. We have $50k earners who bought $750k houses, then complained about Goldman Sachs; Walmart shoppers who buy 12 packs of tighty whiteys for $2.99 — then complains about job losses. Or the non voters (the majority of us) who complain about Congress. We energy consumers ought to realize that it is our demand that led to drilling in the GoM.

Its sure is much easier to blame BP, than to accept resposibility for our own role in the spill…”

Oil Consumption Around the World

The pushback on this was fierce. The mere suggestion that Americans adopt European-style conservation was an outrage to some people. I suspect it is because most people (myself included) like a lifestyle supported by cheap oil. Significant lifestyle change is undesirable.

Where this sort issue becomes extremely fascinating to me is when we begin to rationalize the results of our behavior, and come up with explanations that are wanting. The results of  a recent Bloomberg poll show exactly those sorts of rationalizations:

Indeed, it turns out that the vast majority of Americans have those thoughts. They do not believe this was an inevitable result of pushing the energy exploration envelope to find cheap oil; Rather, to them, it was a freak accident:

“Most Americans oppose President Barack Obama’s ban on deepwater oil drilling in response to BP Plc’s Gulf of Mexico spill, even as they hold the company primarily responsible for the incident.

Almost three-fourths, or 73 percent, say a ban is unnecessary, calling the worst oil spill in U.S. history a “freak accident,” according to a Bloomberg National Poll. Barely more than a third say they support drilling less than they did a few months ago. The BP rig sank in April. The administration issued a new moratorium this week after a court rejected a six-month one imposed in May . . .

Asked who was most to blame for the spill, 44 percent say BP, and 19 percent say lax federal regulations and oversight. One in five say no one is to blame.”

Think about that: 20% of those polled think this is nobody’s fault. And “8 in 10 of those questioned say BP shouldn’t be assessed penalties beyond payment for damages.” Of course, its no one’s fault when a freak accident occurs.

So much for the era of personal responsibility . . .


Oil Consumption Around the World (June 11, 2010)

Americans in 73% Majority Oppose Ban on Deepwater Oil Drilling
Kim Chipman
Bloomberg, July 15 2010

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