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by
Alex Epstein

Bio

April 22, 2010 - 12:43 pm

This Earth Day, take a moment to thank the Greens’ biggest punching bag: Big Oil.

Most of us think of oil simply as the stuff that puts gasoline in our car. But oil, thanks to the ingenuity of the oil industry, does so much more. For one, it’s the building block for thousands of petroleum products — everything from Blu-Ray discs to asphalt to stitches to lipstick. And it provides the safest, most powerful, most convenient fuel, not only for automobiles but for the freighters, jets, trucks, and industrial machinery that power our global economy.

Oil makes every aspect of our lives better. For instance, say you’re fixing yourself a quick, All-American breakfast: eggs, bacon, fruit, and toast. What does that have to do with oil? Everything.

For example, you take for granted that the ingredients will be fresh and healthy. But for most of history people have often had to live with moldy vegetables and spoiled meat, because they lacked the refrigerator you have — a refrigerator with an oil-based, plastic interior that resists moisture and bacteria (imagine if it were made of wood!), not to mention the plastic packaging that keeps the bacon unspoiled and tasty and the bread fresh. If you’re frying the eggs and bacon with a coated pan for speed and easy clean-up, that’s a coating engineered from oil — which is also the material used for the insulated power cords that keeps you safe from the potentially deadly electricity flowing to your toaster and refrigerator.

And your breakfast is not only prepared and preserved with oil, it was grown with oil. Food today is dirt-cheap by historical standards only because of industrial-scale farming using industrial farm equipment powered by the cheapest, most concentrated, most abundant fuel: oil (usually diesel). Oil is also the base of the fertilizer and pesticides that have dramatically increased crop yields and lowered food prices.

Finally, your eggs, bacon, fruit and bread were transported to you — not just from your local grocery store (for pennies) via your gasoline-powered automobile, but from around the world. Once upon a time, you could only get food that was grown within walking or buggy distance. Now, even if you live on an island (say, Manhattan) you can dine on apples from Washington state, eggs from Iowa, oranges from California, and pineapple from Hawaii — all thanks to our fast, cheap, oil-powered transportation network that makes possible all of world trade.

Remember this when you hear calls to cut — and even renounce — our use of oil, because of its supposed impact on the climate. Then ask yourself: why do we never hear what life would be like without oil? What does that reveal about the attackers of oil? Is their anti-oil agenda compatible with human progress and prosperity?

To learn more about the ideas driving the attacks against oil and the value of this resource, visit “In Defense of Oil.”

Alex Epstein is a fellow focusing on business issues at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. He is the author of numerous articles on oil and energy.
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