Recently while driving through Manchester, New Hampshire I spotted a bumper sticker that read: “Dig Here, Dig Now, Pay Less.” The bumper sticker was affixed to the back window of an obscenely large pick-up truck. On the other side of the window was an NRA sticker. I immediately began to consider if there was a connection between the “Drill Baby Drill” ideology and the NRA. Both are primarily informed by a white, conservative ideology. There is nothing wrong with this per se, (actually I think there is, but I won’t get into that here) but I do find it troubling that the owner of the pick-up truck would like to simultaneously drive his vehicle and pay less for gasoline. What’s even more troubling is that I am sure that he thinks that because he works hard and makes money doing whatever it is he does, that he should be able to drive the vehicle that he wants.
I find the above example all too typical of contemporary American sentiment: we want it all, we want it bigger, and we want it now. Most troubling is that a large majority of us feel that because we work so hard, and have the money to spend, we have earned the right to purchase what we want. In fact, it is seen as an essential American freedom that if we can afford it, we can buy it. Such is the logic of capitalism. Yet, there is an ethical slip here that those with the capitalist mindset, like that of the truck owner, do not, or will not, take into consideration: just because one can afford to drive large environmentally unfriendly vehicles doesn’t mean one should.
The question is an ethical one. Is there a limit to what one should be able to buy in a world that promotes spending, especially on big ticket items such as automobiles and homes? And what of social responsibility? In the small town where my in- laws live I knew a man who purchased a second (or perhaps it was a third) home there. I guess his driveway was quite steep because he purchased a Hummer so that he and is wife would be able to navigate the driveway and country roads during the winter. I found this reprehensible at the time and still do. I would argue that people like the man with the Hummer are more of a threat to national security than any terrorist or dictator.
Digging for oil off our coasts provides only a (very) temporary solution to the shortage of and high prices of gasoline and heating oil. Likewise, digging for natural gas by fracking is environmentally unsafe. Fracking is the use of high-powered drills consisting of millions of gallons of water containing various chemicals used to extract natural gas from shale rock. The big oil companies would have us believe that this is the safest way to manage our dependency on foreign oil, at least for the short term. In the same small town where my in-laws live, dozens of people have “leased” their land for $10,000-20,000 for these gas companies to come and conduct drilling through fracking. These people are obviously only seeing the relatively small sum of money and not considering what fracking will ultimately do to the environment. If every person has his or her price, theirs was pretty low.
The only way that we can “cure” ourselves of our dependency on foreign oil is to put the large sums of money we put into fracking and foreign wars and political campaigns into searching for alternative energy sources. That’s the long-term solution. The short-term solution is to drive smaller cars. Is there really a need to have Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades? I suspect that a majority of the American public will still feel that if they can afford to buy it they should be able to buy it. Again, I believe that nothing could be further from the truth. We may just end up destroying ourselves in the process. The “dig here dig now” and “Drill baby drill” mentality is not only faulty, it’s frightening to consider. Yet consider it we must, since so many Americans seem hell bent on still driving enormous cars.