Consumer habits fuel oil crisis

For many Americans, the price of gas is hitting a crisis level. Families must make difficult choices and budget more tightly, eliminating both essential and nonessential expenditures. Though the blame has been passed around from the government to oil companies and to oil-producing companies, it is ultimately the American consumer’s fault.

We have been on an oil-consuming binge, from purchasing enormous sport utility vehicles to buying disposable plastic products. This unhealthy pattern of behavior has fueled such a dependence upon oil and its byproducts that any increase in crude prices hurts us in every aspect of our lives. We should have seen this coming – the tree-huggers who have been shunned throughout the decades were right.

To escape this crippling cycle of dependence we must change our ways significantly and permanently. Houston, as the energy capital of the world, is also one of the world’s worst cities for air pollution. What drives this city’s economy also chokes us as a people. The petroleum refineries dirty our air and the commutes taken by hundreds of thousands of residents exponentially add to this. The worst part is most of us pretend it isn’t happening.

We must support initiatives to increase public transportation, not only inside the 610 loop, but throughout Harris County. Those who drive 30 or more miles one way to work need a viable and efficient alternative. The Texas spirit of independence prevents many of us from even considering putting our punctuality at the mercy of a government-supported entity such as Metro, but this very attitude must be overcome as it breeds a damaging brand of narcissism that adversely affects all of us. We are the stewards of this society for future generations and cannot ethically leave them a world stained with pollution, forever caught in the grip of the petroleum industry.

The City of Houston and the University of Houston have taken responsible steps toward purchasing electricity generated by wind farms. We should applaud those decisions and stand together to demand all branches of government do the same. Write your state and federal representatives and senators and tell them you support responsible and sustainable energy usage.

We as consumers can also take steps to support green energy production. Companies who produce electricity through wind power also provide service to individual households. The number and diversity of hybrid car models are increasing and will continue to do so as the market demand increases. As adults, we must make responsible choices that not only serve our individual good, but the greater good of society.

Making more environmentally responsible choices not only helps curb pollution, but also adds growth to the economy by expanding on new and innovative technology, creating more jobs. It also helps national security by reducing our dependence on oil produced in increasingly unstable regions of the world.

Yes, this requires a sea of change in thought and attitude, but it is worth it. The ideas are revolutionary, but the alternatives are far worse. We have been lulled into complacency both by convenience and by a mindset that has been ingrained into our psyches for generations. The "good old days" of cheap gas and disregard for the future are over.

Webb, a political science and creative writing senior, can be reached via [email protected].

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