Bicycling as a Response to the Oil Spill

I am not giving up on how much of a monumental disaster this oil spill is. Pretty soon we'll be seeing the end of mainstream media coverage of the spill - I give it two weeks. See my previous post for some perspective: how much is 70,000 barrels of oil a day? For the next two months?

I think it's important, though, to not just vilify BP or Big Oil in general or the government or the "drill, baby drill" Republican blowhards, but instead to use this opportunity to spur debate - how do we prevent this from happening again? And I don't mean, how do we create better technology so that when the next oil spill happens we can cap it more quickly. I mean, the reason that we are drilling oil off shore, the reason we are importing oil from the Middle East, and then sending troops over there to protect the stability in the region and thus the stability of our oil supply, is because with the status quo, we need oil. We demand it. Supply = demand. Basic econ.

We are the reason for the oil spill. We, with our cars, our heated homes and showers and laundry machines, our demand for meat, and out-of-season and processed and packaged food, our comfortable lifestyles - we demand the oil and we demand it cheaply. We see in the photo above how costly oil really is.

And I made the point before that moving to "clean energy" isn't really a solution either. As "green" as our "alternative energy" hopes and dreams are, they aren't a solution. Every source of energy has a cost, whether monetary, environmental, social, or cultural.

Most of the cultural conversation surrounding energy consumption has to deal with transportation. How much energy do we use converting oil into gas? And then how much gas do we use driving cars and flying places, and transporting food and goods across the world? And this makes sense, transportation is an important facet of everyday life. I don't like focusing on transportation because the meat industry creates more demand for oil, and destroys the environment in countless other ways, far more than all modes of transportation combined.

But transportation is still important. What if there were a viable solution that, at least in the realm of transportation, virtually minimized demand for energy generation?

A poster at my local bike shop has this (uncited, but logical) statement regarding efficient transportation:
"The most efficient animal on earth in terms of weight transported over distance for energy expended is a human on a bicycle. The most efficient machine on earth in terms of weight transported over distance for energy expended is a human on a bicycle."
No "hybrid" or electric car could ever match the efficiency of the bicycle. Barring the energy required to create the bike in the first place, and the (minimal) energy consumption required in manufacturing the tools and parts that a bicycle requires for upkeep, nothing comes close.

I was going to write more, but - go get a bike. Ride it. Love it. Take a deep breath and for every mile you ride your bicycle instead of driving your car, smile.


  1. I'm a walker. I like the time it takes to get places when you walk, I like that I can pace myself, use the time to clear my head, or walk with purpose, and make good time, even on foot. And when I can't walk, because of time or distance constraints, I like to take the bus (in Eugene, that's easy). But, what are your thoughts for long-distance travel? I am constantly thinking about what the best way to long-distance travel is- I always wish to travel by train, but more often I still fly (ugh).

  2. I feel like the cool ideal-type thing is a movement toward living a lot more local, you know? But yeah, how do you deal w/ long-distance travel? I don't know. I fly too. It would be cool to be proactive enough to plan to take more time for travel - i.e. take the train. But I love international travel, too. No answer, unfortunately :T

    I don't really walk much. It's too slow, haha! I like biking instead. I think it'd be good for me to walk more; you know, take it slow. But I always think, if I could walk somewhere, why not bike there, you know? So it rarely happens.