March 8, 2011 In her book Power Trip, Nashville journalist Amanda Little explored the many ways Americans use oil without even knowing it. As Little reiterates in an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, the net effect of this invisible petroleum consumption is far more than just pain at the pump: “Virtually everything we consume—from hamburgers, running shoes and chemotherapy to Facebook, Lady Gaga MP3s and ’60 Minutes’—is produced from or powered by fossil fuels and their byproducts, all of which could grow more costly as the price of petroleum rises.”
Oh, well, that’s just the price of life in the developed world, right? Not exactly: “Americans use more oil than people in any other developed country, about twice as much per capita, on average, as Britons,” Little writes. “Indeed, our appetite for petroleum, like our fondness of fast foods, has spawned a kind of obesity epidemic, but one without conspicuous symptoms like high blood pressure and diabetes. And because we don’t see how much energy goes into the products and services we purchase, we’re shielded from knowing the full extent of our personal energy demands—and unprepared when rising fuel prices increase the cost of everything else.”
Little believes the solution is knowledge: if people were made aware of their energy use and offered lower-carbon options, many would gladly make the greener choice, in much the same way dieters study food labels and choose the lower-calorie versions of foods: “There’s no reason we can’t have energy labels, too,” she says—labels which display “the amount of energy consumed and greenhouse gases generated from their production, transportation and use.”
To read the full essay, click here.
To read Chapter 16‘s review of Power Trip, click here.
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