President Obama goes to the Copenhagen conference on climate change this month in a weak position, unable to point to any significant U.S. plan for cutting carbon emissions. Though the U.S. has the highest per capita emissions in the world, it has yet to commit itself to cutting the volume of heat-trapping gases that cause global warming. The issue remains on the political back burner.
In his State of the Union address, President Bush once again sounded the alarm about America’s dependence on foreign oil, and he called for a reduction in gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years. But Bush framed the issue largely as a national security concern: dependence on foreign oil leaves the U.S.
The American addiction to oil is like an addiction to amphetamines, says Alfred W. Crosby: the substance is enormously stimulating and its users think they function much better with it than without it.
The U.S.’s approach to the Middle East frequently seems less policy than fated inevitability. The U.S. requires oil from that region for its survival, therefore it underwrites despotic and corrupt regimes, and bears the consequences of those alliances. Yet neither the need nor the alliances are written in the stars.