The Morality of the Petroleum Economy

Petroleum has been a critical component of world economic growth for generations. The strong growth of the U.S. economy since the end of World War II has been in large part made possible by the availability of cheap oil. But at what cost? The recent oil disaster off the Louisiana coast has brought into sharp focus that this economic prosperity comes at a price.

In reality, Americans are just discovering some of the ugly truth about the harm oil spills and leaks have been having on people around the globe. Most of the spills have resulted from oil tanker accidents and damaged oil pipelines. The worst ever oil spill was in 1979, and also occurred under water in the Gulf of Mexico. And like with the present BP oil spill, the Mexican state-owned oil company PEMEX back then tried unsuccessfully a variety of approaches to stop the leak of oil into the Gulf. The 1979 Ixtoc spill was in much more shallow water (about 200 feet) but still took about a year to bring to an end — and not before over 140 million gallons had polluted the northern Mexican Gulf coast and about 170 miles of Texas beaches.

Two long lists of oil spills around the world can be found on Wikipedia ( and at (

Perhaps the most glaring example of global irresponsibility by the multinational oil industry, and in this case exploitation of an indigenous population, has been in Nigeria. A group of independent environmental and oil experts visiting the Niger Delta in 2006 estimated that between 1958 and 2006 as many as 13 million barrels of oil have polluted the Niger Delta. To put this in perspective, this amount of oil spillage is like the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez size spill every year for 50 years. Amnesty International published its report: “NIGERIA: PETROLEUM, POLLUTION AND POVERTY IN THE NIGER DELTA” in 2009. The report is a real eye opener and raises serious questions about the morality of our continuing dependence on petroleum.

Add to that the enormous wealth we here in the U.S. are literally giving away to nations that do not like us, and you really have to wonder when we will finally wake up and realize that our economic and environmental well-being depends on creating an alternative energy future. A future that emphasizes moving to renewable energy sources and alternatives to fossil fuels as quickly as, and to the greatest extent, possible.

Jonathan Cykman, Basic PLUS Author

About cykman

Jon Cykman works in Washington, DC as a consultant, and is long-time student of American Politics. He started out handing out campaign materials for Hubert Humphrey during the campaign of 1968, and later went on to earn a B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York, College at Purchase in 1978, and an M.P.A. in Public Affairs from the University of Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in 1980. Jon retired from Federal Service after 31 years of service, and lives with his family in Ellicott City, MD.
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22 Responses to The Morality of the Petroleum Economy

  1. These days has 162 situations of sickness reported while in the Lousisiana, 128 are individuals laborers, The oldest worker is 64 years old in there. I feel sorry for these workers. I actually hate those people oil company.

  2. NoweDont says:

    The oil spill is nothing to laugh at but I just saw a kid wearing a t-shirt that cracked me up. BP – We’re bring oil to America’s shores. I died laughing because BP’s billion dollar image change to their new sunflower logo is forever going to be associated with the worst environmental disaster to strike America. Check out the shirt here –

  3. johnhaward says:

    Interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks a lot!

  4. With all the damage that we are doing to this earth I am not sure how much longer it will go forward, I think we should do more to help and stop consuming all its natural resources.

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  6. Wind Turbine says:

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  8. Jean Bianca says:

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  13. Well said! – I looked at the Wiki on this and it did not have as good info – thanks!

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