The harmful impact of modern technology on the natural world is obvious to anyone with eyes and ears. The greatest culprits have long been our modes of transportation. Though certain advancements have made newer vehicles’ emissions cleaner, the difference seems negligible when one considers the massive number of people out on the highways these days. Also, such innovations do nothing to alter our dependence upon foreign sources of the Black Gold that powers them all: petroleum.
Though the Unites States consumes somewhere around 25% of the world’s petroleum resources, only 3% of that is taken from beneath native soil. This country, therefore, is at the mercy of foreign suppliers, the primary ones being Middle Eastern countries (the Mother Lode of crude oil) that are notoriously unstable and given to upheaval and dramatic shifts of power. One unfortunate result of this is the wars the U.S. commits itself to in order to secure easy access to cheap oil. Because it has to import vast quantities of fossil fuels from abroad, it is repeatedly involved in bloody entanglements that cost the lives of American soldiers, fighters and civilians in other countries, and billions of dollars.
Such is the consequence of our commuter lifestyle in this country; but so entrenched are we in it that it’s not possible to simply do away with the automobile. Our only choice, if we are to avert environmental disaster and eschew dependence on foreign countries, is to develop alternative sources of fuel that will burn cleaner and – just as important – be derived from resources that we have right here at home.
Otherwise, we can only continue to draw upon a resource whose supply diminishes even as demand continues to increase (not just in the U.S., but around the world – in Asia particularly). Oil will need to be sought in deeper, more difficult to reach reservoirs. It will, therefore, be more costly to extract; and this cost will be reflected in the prices we pay per gallon at the pumps, in our energy bills, and perhaps even in how much we pay for various services. Meanwhile, the burning of fossil fuels will continue to contribute to unhealthy air and global warming. Scientists are fairly unanimous these days in their assessment of the consequences of even slight temperature rises around the globe: floods and rising sea levels (due to melting ice caps), the triggering of extreme weather conditions (tornados, earthquakes), and the disruption of the normal growth cycles of crops.
Implementing alternative sources of energy should be our immediate priority. Not only would such a shift help to offset the environmental damage that has been wrought by burning fossil fuels, but also it could do much to promote peace in the world. When countries are no longer fighting over limited and non-renewable resources, they may be able to cooperate together rather than kill each other’s people. For the U.S., this would mean a prouder and more dignified image abroad, as well as billions of dollars saved that could then be spent at home where it’s needed.