Image credit: NozzleRage
I may get stick from those who want to paint all greenies as liberal, PC zealots for this one, but what the heck. I've started so I'll finish.
From Iraq war vets fighting for clean energy to cost-competitive algae jet fuel, there's much to be said for energy independence as an argument for renewables and efficiency. As an issue it crosses traditional partisan lines, it's easier to communicate than climate change or other long-term concerns, and it's a prime example of how sustainability can make our culture better and more resilient. But I've been wondering—when does arguing for a stronger, more self-sufficient culture of our own become arguing against someone else's culture? In short, when does the energy independence meme become xenophobia, or worse?It's a question that I don't have an answer to. I regularly use energy independence as a strong supporting argument for why we need to use resources wisely, and start seriously ramping up our capacity for clean energy. Whether you are looking at large-scale solar power in Nevada, real efforts to build a smart grid worthy of the 21st Century, or initiatives to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure, green projects seem to go hand in hand with building resilient communities.
And let's face it, many of the countries where our oil comes from are hardly paragons of good governance or democracy. But while I have no problem with people arguing against sending money to the Saudi regime, or suggesting that reducing the West's oil use may allow us to decrease our military presence in the Middle East, I can't help but get a little uncomfortable when the energy independence meme starts bordering on cultural stereotypes or demonizing entire nations or cultures.
Take the video below from NozzleRage. On the one hand, it's an effective and powerful argument why reducing oil use is a great way to starve hostile organizations like Al Qaeda of money. On the other hand, it's yet another example of the sinister Arab in dark glasses setting out to screw over (quite literally in this case) your average American. As one of the commenters on YouTube put it—nobody is forcing us to buy oil, so playing victim can only take us so far.
As I said above, this is a question I don't have an answer to. But as we make the case for energy independence and efficient, intelligent use of our natural resources, I'd suggest it's worth remembering that this is a vision that can benefit everybody. From the Masdar solar city in Abu-Dhabi to Al Jazeera's interest in peak oil and the transition movement, there are plenty of people in the Middle East who realize that relying on oil money may not be the ticket to a prosperous future. We're all in this together, so we may as well try to get along.