We are in a time where the conversation over legalizing drugs is out of the fringes and well into the mainstream.

How can this be? Can there be an assessment of a product, commodity, or service that takes into account the total of social and environmental effects to rationally address the benefits and costs of legalization versus criminal bans? Many cultures have shown that indeed we can.

And this process goes both ways: welcoming products into the market that prove to be safe and excluding or restricting others that pose threats.

The ‘free market’ that many Americans and other capitalist/corporatist folks espouse has never really been a totally free market. Many countries operate under a form of ‘controlled market’, ie they control, limit, and oversee how products and services are used, distributed, taxed, which are safe for minors etc.

Just as many are now open to having the conversation about the benefits of decriminalizing drugs, there is currently a growing number of folks worldwide who are ready to discuss and advocate for the banning of oil for the commercial use as petrol.

What these folks are saying is that governments, national and transnational, can and should express their power to control the market in such a way that diesel and gasoline for private use and consumption should be made illegal.

Here’s what we know about oil:
1) It is toxic in all its forms. Whether it is through oil spills in the ocean or burned and released into the atmosphere, oil destroys the environment and decreases the quality of life for humans. See Mindflowers’ previous post “Where does all the oil go?” here: http://mindflowers.net/2010/05/22/guest-post-where-does-all-the-oil-go/

2) It is obviously poisonous to burn. Think of the ‘car in the garage’ mode of suicide. My mother would kill animals that she live trapped invading her house by putting them in a bag and placing it around the muffler. (Only after multiple releases in the forest proved that they were adept at finding their way back–still grisly I know). This is extreme I know. Cars usually zip about the open road and animals aren’t falling dead all around our Hummers’ bumpers but collectively this gas accrues and slowly poisons ecosystems. Like cigarettes, the intended and proper use of gas is deadly.

3) Oil companies know that burning fossil fuels is harmful to the environment, quality of life, and exacerbates radical human caused climate change. Like the cigarette companies, oil corporations tried to cover up the effects of using their product through sham science and quakery. See the Guardian’s article about Exxon and the quack science front The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition who also was puppeted by Phillip Morris here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2006/sep/19/ethicalliving.g2

4) Oil companies have the largest profits of any other industry ever. Although they posture as humble servants of the common good providing the ‘go juice’ that our cultures thrive upon, they have proven to be just as cut-throat, gouging, and manipulative as you might expect any drug cartel or snakeoil salesperson to be. Their huge profits have not been translated into better environmental safety precautions obviously given the current BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Note that not only is BP utterly incapable of doing anything about the accident–no other companies have stepped up to aid or help or advise. That means that all oil companies would be in the same predicament should their wells go wrong. See Rachel Maddow on this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6LoMRxyqH8

I know that there will remain some who will respond to the case for criminalizing the private consumption of oil by saying: “Our economies need oil! We need oil for transportation, import/export, farming, air travel, etc.! Our world runs on oil!”

“Our world runs on oil.” Where does that messaging come from? Could it be the top five most profitable corporations in the world who happen to be oil companies? Think of an abusive domestic partner: what do they say? “You need me! Who brings home the paycheck? How’d you pay rent?” One must consider where the messaging is coming from. Are we told that by government? Who’s paying the govenment to say that? In 2006, oil and gas companies paid over 19 million dollars to political campaigns (82% of which went to Republicans and 18% to Democrats). See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Lobby

What are we to make of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform? Why are oil companies drilling deeper in the oceans? Why are oil companies going through the rigorous, dirty, and non-efficient means of extracting oil from oil sands which causes two to four times the greenhouse gases per barrel of conventional oil processing? (See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_sands)

Simply, because the oil resources of our world are being quickly depleted. How long do you imagine our recoverable oil reserves will last the world’s projected demand? 100 years? 50 years? How about less than 30.
See this infographic: http://io9.com/5535851/how-much-oil-will-be-wasted-in-the-deepwater-spill

We know that in thirty years time, the world will be largely without oil. No gas, no diesel. Will the world screech to a halt and be taken over by zombies or roving bands of extras from the Mad Max films? No. You and I can guess that just as oil disappears, a ‘new’ innovation will replace it.

So let’s not be naive. Do we believe that the oil companies don’t have plans for this transition? Reasonable people can see the game: oil companies use up all the world’s oil (and still retain their world dominating profits) all the while destroying environments and people’s health only to magically reveal that whoop! they’ve got a replacement for us.

We won’t buy into it. We want to transition now. We won’t wait for another 30 years of oil spills, of degradation of our planet just to satisfy some corporations’ lust for power and greed.

Unfortunately for many because of city development and commuting requirements, and house heating options, oil and gas are still required. However, we demand of our politicians, religious leaders, and industry innovators: join us in transitioning out of the insane culture of oil.

The case against oil is being mainstreamed. The people speaking against oil are middle-class folks, hard working people from every political background and religious tradition. We are not radicals, ‘hippies’, or unreasonable. We know the effects of oil on our cities and our quality of life. We know that there is a better way of life and we will never back down from our vision of social and environmental justice. We are everywhere, we are informed, and holding to the values of our faith, family, and reason we will continue mainstreaming the case to criminalize oil.