The world over there is justifiable outrage about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We demonize BP for careless and greedy practices that make a mockery of their claim to be leaders in developing sources of clean energy. But we are unwilling to shoulder our individual responsibility for demanding cheap oil or to take any meaningful steps toward conservation.
We demand the right to consume at any cost to the environment. We hate the pushers but love the drug. With a modicum of discipline we could take individual ownership of our escalating carbon debt and eliminate most or all of the need for deep horizon oil.
The plan. Require every automobile and light-truck to be fitted with a gauge, such is now standard equipment in the Prius, that measures the MPG for the last tank of gas used. This information would be fed into computer in the gas pump that would determine the appropriate cost of a gallon of gas. A light pickup that gets 15 MPG might pay four dollars for a gallon of gas, a Hummer that get seven miles 7 MPG six dollars per gallon, a Prius or other hybrids that gets 48 MPG two dollars a gallon. Those with hardships, low incomes and high needs might be offered a discount. At first, such a plan would, no doubt, be met with outrage, cries of injustice, and tough talk from the petroleum giants and automobile companies. How dare anyone deprive us of our God-given right to life, liberty and an endless flow cheap gasoline! But once the government offered subsidies for the purchase of fuel efficient cars and trucks the ethos would change. Conserving would become sexy and smart and we might be able look our children in the eye knowing we were making an effort to become responsible environmental citizens.
The carbon debt belongs to each one of us. The responsibility and guilt belongs equally to corporations and consumers. In the oil-besmirched face of BP we see the enemy. If we look closely we might also see a reflection of our own petrol-greed. Time to pay our debt. Let’s reward the behaviors we want to encourage and, otherwise, make the punishment fit the crime.