Americans are obsessed with oil! We drive. We fly. We farm. We heat our homes. The refined petroleum products we need are derived mainly from crude oil; they are also produced by processing natural gas; and though we can substitute or add renewable biofuels such as ethanol, the fact remains that, as per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2017, Americans consumed nearly 20 million barrels of petroleum products per day!
Though the United States has the highest rate of oil consumption worldwide, Canada and Mexico both rank within the top ten as well. We are using more oil now that at any other point in history – even though it is an unrenewable resource and it is contributing to pollution and climate change. The average North American uses their car for everything: commuting to work, grocery shopping, going to the gym, or going out for the evening. Most families own multiple vehicles and choose to drive rather than use any other mode of transportation, even if it is a short distance and far more logical to walk.
We have become a society of lazy, greedy, consumers who – even though they know of perfectly viable alternatives – choose to continue endangering our planet because we’d prefer not to change our habits. In a society increasingly characterized by ill health and obesity, the irony of driving to the gym for a workout, then driving to a fast-food restaurant for oil-drenched French fries, burgers, or fried chicken, before driving to the grocery store to stock up on products delivered by massive, diesel-belching, 18-wheeled trucks, and returning home to crank up our oil furnaces is lost on most. Though renewable energy sources abound, and the U.S. and Canada should be leading the field in alternative energy use, we fall sadly behind and remain increasingly entrenched in our addiction to oil consumption. And the vicious cycle continues as health problems are exacerbated by the poor air quality in most major cities, requiring more people to drive rather than walking as they’re no longer healthy enough to do so.
We must hope that the next generations will break from the current trend, choosing cleaner – and more renewable – energy sources and deciding to walk or use other forms of active transportation; otherwise, even though we project running out of crude oil within the next 50 years, our planet may not be fit for habitation long before we’ve reached the end of the fossil fuel supply.