Right now, oil is everywhere: powering cars, lorries, ships and planes. It moves us from place to place, provides heating for homes and offices, and – in the form of artificial fertilisers – even helps grow our food. We need to end our oil addiction. It won’t happen overnight, but we have to make a start now.
Our use of oil is also one of the biggest contributors to climate change – only coal has a greater impact. Oil also poses a direct threat to communities near extraction sites and pipelines. Major oil spills – such as the Exxon Valdez tanker accident and the Deepwater Horizon disaster – have polluted oceans and coastlines for decades after. Smaller leaks gush from active pipelines almost every day. These spills poison land and water supplies, and pose a health risk to people living nearby.
Risky drilling and controversial pipelines
Even though all the ‘easy to reach’ oil has practically run out, companies are still scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. They’re going to greater and greater extremes to find new oil. Ambitions to drill in the Arctic are risky and cleaning up a spill would be impossible. Extracting oil from tar sands is expensive, uses a lot of energy and scars the landscape.
Oil companies are also notorious for ignoring the wishes of local communities and the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Shell has a long history of abuse and corruption in Nigeria. And pipeline projects in North America, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, have seen peaceful protests led by Indigenous Peoples met with intimidation and violence.
The simple fact is: we don’t need more oil. Advances in electric vehicles and improved transport networks mean we can do without. So we’re challenging the companies and governments bent on keeping us hooked. We’re also showing how we can reduce the amount we use through clean energy and better transport.
The good news is that we’re winning. People around the world have stopped oil giants Shell, BP and Total from drilling in fragile environments. Indigenous communities’ resistance has forced companies to pull out of building pipelines. And some global banks have refused to finance pipeline construction.
There’s still a long way to go but together we can wean ourselves off oil.