Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Power Trip: The Story of America's Love Affair with Energy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Power Trip: The Story of America's Love Affair with Energy

Article excerpt

Author Amanda Little talks about America's energy addiction and how it can be cured.

It's easy to point the finger at the government and wealthy oil

tycoons. But the truth is, when it comes to irresponsible energy

consumption, we're all to blame.

Journalist Amanda Little spent 10 years criticizing the US

government for failing to promote energy alternatives. But when

Little studied her personal consumption patterns, she began to

realize how reliant she was on these same elements. She wore clothing

made of synthetic plastic, took notes with petroleum-derived ink, and

ate cereal made from whole grains that had been treated with

oil-derived fertilizers.

I recently had the chance to talk with Little about her new book

Power Trip: The Story of America's Love Affair with Energy.

What have we learned from this year's BP oil spill in the Gulf of

Mexico?

My concerns have intensified because I'm not so sure that we've

absorbed the lessons of that disaster. We suffer from a delusion, a

myth, that we can live energy-lavish lifestyles without experiencing

any negative effects. The BP oil spill punctured that myth. We saw

these wrenching images that suddenly exposed to us the risks of

extreme oil drilling. [But] my concern is that we are already

forgetting.

You tell us why America needs to kick its addiction to fossil fuels.

But how should individuals modify their behavior to do it?

Certainly the single greatest impact we can have on oil consumption

would be to opt for an energy-efficient [hybrid or electric] car, or

as efficient a car as possible. Now that's not economically

available to a lot of us, but we can never underestimate the

importance of carpooling, public transit, bike riding. Seventy

percent of Americans commute to work every day in an automobile,

alone, and only roughly 9 percent use public transit in any

meaningful way. It's shocking. We consume 75 percent more oil per

day per capita than the people of Japan and about double [that of

people in] Europe. These are our industrial competitors and they live

very comfortable, technologically advanced lifestyles. Making our

homes more efficient and reducing our fuel use for transportation are

the two biggies.

You say that fossil fuels are everywhere in our lives - in

everything from plastics to transportation to the food we consume.

What surprised you most?

When I looked at my own life I found that virtually everything in my

midst was there because of oil or coal or natural gas. It was sort of

bittersweet. On the one hand it was terrifying to see that there was

virtually nothing in my life, not even the contact lenses in my eyes,

that wasn't there because of fossil fuels and wasn't dependent on

them. It was also kind of miraculous. I thought, "Wow, I've been

criticizing oil and coal and natural gas for so long and in fact

it's the source of so many creature comforts and essential things

in my life. …

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