Blind Consumption: Realizing the Full Costs of Oil

  On January 2, 2002, less than four months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, I enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. I did so in part to serve my nation and in part to earn money for college. In the summer of 2006, while serving my second tour in Iraq, I was on the fence about re-enlisting in the Marine Corps or pursuing my university aspirations. Ultimately, my experiences, and my desire to better understand them, compelled me to pursue higher education. My studies over the past five years have lead me to believe that national and international concerns for energy security have had a significant influence on American foreign policy, at least since the administration of Jimmy Carter — though arguably since Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. This circumstance implies that American tax dollars — through the Department of Defense — are, in effect, subsidies on the low cost of fuel in America. These subsidies provide a disincentive for Americans to conserve energy, particularly gasoline. The power and salience of this disincentive are born out in the fact that the U.S currently houses about 5 percent of the world’s population and only 2 percent of its oil reserves, yet we consume roughly 22 percent of globally produced oil. It doesn’t take much to imagine that a Defense Department subsidy underwriting the cost of oil is significant in its...

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