US oil profligance and third world petro-violence: our readers write
Our January issue featured the story "Niger Delta: Behind the Mask" by Ike Okonta, which explored the concept of petro-violence, pioneered by Michael J. Watts of UC Berkely, in the context of contemporary Nigeria— where oil exploitation has only brought armed struggle and bloody repression to the most resource-rich part of the country. We also featured the story "Colombia: the Paras and the Oil Cartel" by WW4 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg, which documented how the Andean nation's brutal right-wing paramilitaries are terrorizing trade unionists who oppose the privatization of the state oil company, as well as peasants and indigenous peoples protesting the despoilation of their traditional lands and waters by breakneck oil exploitation. Our January Exit Poll was: "Would you give up your SUV to halt mass murder in Nigeria and Colombia? C'mon, tell the truth." We received the following responses:
From Jason Miller, somewhere in cyberspace:
I bought a 2006 Jeep Commander which was sticker milage of 15-19mpg, and only got 12mpg. I wanted to get rid of it and drive a fully electric vehicle to show others that it was possable to go from one extreme of vehicles to the other sucessfully.
I would in a heartbeat drive a 100% electric vehicle to halt mass murder in Nigeria and Colombia.
Keep up the good work deciphering all the hoo haa out there about the "war"
WW4 REPORT responds: We will certainly do our best, Jason. But electric cars, while a big step in the right direction, would not address the problems of sprawl, appropriation of public space by the private automobile, the annual 1.2 million killed worldwide in traffic accidents, etc. As we have pointed out before, statistics prove that cars are worse than terrorism.
From Kim Sky, Eugene, Oregon:
i don't believe that giving up my "SUV" would halt mass murder in Nigeria or Colombia. Kind of a ridiculous notion when you think of how much oil the US Military, corporate farms, manufacturing, airlines etc. are using?
WW4 REPORT responds: Sorry Kim, but the Natural Resources Defense Council, citing Energy Department statistics, informs us: "Of the 20 million barrels of oil consumed each day, 40 percent is used by passenger vehicles." We don't want to let corporate farms or the military off the hook—as Simone Weil noted, nations go to war to secure petroleum "for the purpose of safeguarding or increasing one's capacity to make war." But let's not let SUV culture off the hook either, or the role it plays in this pathological vicious cycle.
From JG, New York City:
What percentage of regular ww4report readers do you think own SUV's? C'mon, tell the truth.
WW4 REPORT responds: Hard to say...
From Bert Golding in Houston, Texas:
Boy, am I glad I don't have an SUV! I hate ethical decisions that either cost me a lot of money or give me the option of feeling like a traitor.
WW4 REPORT responds: Heh. That's why we live in New York. Just about the only place in the US where you can manage without a private automobile. Congrats for holding out against the death culture out there in oiliest city in the oiliest state of the union...
From Jan Martell, seemingly of New York:
I gave up my SUV before I bought it. But I'd be willing to give up your SUV to halt mass murder in Nigeria and Columbia.
WW4 REPORT responds: Very cute. But neither of WW4 REPORT's co-editors own an automobile. Bill Weinberg gets around on a mountain bike. Also, you mis-spelled Colombia.
From Eric R. Goodman, somewhere in cyberspace:
I have an old truck and yes I would give it up to stop bioterrorism in the united states.
WW4 REPORT responds: We aren't quite sure we get the connection. Not to say it doesn't exist...
Joseph Wetmore of Ithaca, NY, notes the current "tortilla crisis" in Mexico and sends a news clip from the Jan. 13 San Francisco Chronicle which quotes Peter Navarro, a business professor at UC Irvine: "The price of oil is driving up the price of corn (because of increased ethanol production), which is driving up the price of tortillas." Joe adds:
When you try to replace farm land for growing food with farm land used to grow fuel for automobiles, food prices go up. It does not matter whether you are producing ethanol, bio-diesel or corn-oil. Supply and demand work that way.
Ethanol is a very minor part of our energy package and the poor in Mexico are already starting to feel it. Imagine what problems will develop if a significant percentage of Americans switch to alternative fuels.
Americans have to give up their love affair with the car.
WW4 REPORT responds: We couldn't agree more, and our December story "The Real Scoop on Biofuels: 'Green Energy' Panacea or Just the Latest Hype?" by Brian Tokar noted this phenomenon.