COLUMN: Oil dependency has to end

We have a love-hate relationship with oil companies.

We have a love-hate relationship with oil companies.

We love that easy energy filling our vehicles and oil tanks, yet we hate the fact we are addicted to the stuff – paying whatever these companies decide to charge us.

In my years of trying to help people reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, it has become very clear that the vast majority of us are willing to remain highly dependent, content to whine but do little to change our ways.

I have read many apparently desperate attempts to force oil companies to lower their prices.

E-mails circulate encouraging us to boycott such-in-such gas company in the hope that the resulting reduction in business will force them to lower their prices.

When I point out to the senders that the only way prices will drop is when we reduce our consumption, I hear only stony silence, and gas prices just keep on rising.

Why so little change on our part?

Even when better transportation solutions are offered and energy upgrades to homes and buildings are cost-effective (paying for themselves many times over) most people hardly bother.

Only three motivators seem to push people to reduce their energy use: avoiding escalating energy costs and improving comfort levels and/or convenience.

While public transportation (such as buses and trains), walking and cycling are far more environmentally and economically sustainable, they are seen to be less convenient and (in the case of cycling) far less comfortable.

A couple of writers to the Nanaimo News Bulletin insist that public investment in such measures is not cost-effective, yet fail to acknowledge the billions of dollars spent yearly on the roads and bridges (one clover-leaf overpass costs $30-$40 million a copy, encouraging more vehicular traffic and thus more grid-lock).

They also seem to ignore the fact that vehicle ownership is expensive (about $10K a year), nor recognize that our convenient easy lifestyle is costing us billions in health-care costs and lost work

time, to name a few.

In other words, our love of comfort and convenience is killing us, our budgets, and (very likely) our planet.

The province is currently pushing gas development and the feds are championing oil. Neither approach is helping us reduce our fossil fuel addictions.

Clearly it’s up to us to act. Continued inaction will certainly result in less money, comfort, convenience and health.

Time has run out. If you love your wallet, your comfort and your planet, now is the time to act.

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Ian Gartshore chairs the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.

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