Climate and Energy
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy.
What a source of power!
I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
- Thomas Edison

Ten Ways to Break Our Addiction to Oil

First published in Corporate Knights, June 2006

1. Admit to the Addiction to Oil
An addiction, eh? That’s what Mr. Bush says - and he ought to know. Are you unable to manage your daily life without a regular fix of oil to run your car, fuel your flights, ship your goods, and make all the plastic things we seem to need? If your answer is yes, then alas, my friend, you are an oil addict. Step One to break your chronic and debilitating addiction is to admit that you are powerless over oil, and that your life has become unmanageable without it. You – rather, we - also need to acknowledge that the supply of our favorite drug is getting rather expensive, and that according to some (US Army, Energy Department and White House advisors included), this “peak oil” things is actually rather troubling. We may be forced to give up our favorite drug sooner that we want. See

2. Understand the Potential of Sustainable Energy
Step Two is to accept that a power greater than oil can restore us to sanity. The world has an enormous supply of wind, solar, and tidal energy, bio-wastes, and other forms of trustworthy energy, made by Nature herself. With sustainable electricity, we can run smart electric vehicles, and hydrogen-enhanced, plug-in gas-electric hybrid vehicles that use biofuels for the small amount of liquid they need. See

3. Make the Commitment to Seek Energy Elsewhere
Step Three: Make the decision to turn our lives over to more sustainable forms of energy. California has said that they will reduce their greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. The New England state governors have said 75% by 2050. Brave Sweden has said that it will end its dependency on fossil fuels by 2020. We must also set goals to achieve far greater levels of energy efficiency in our vehicles, homes, buildings and appliances. Without goals, as any corporate leader knows, nothing happens. See

4.  Do an Energy Audit
Step Four: Make a searching and fearless inventory of our energy needs and possibilities. How much energy do you use in your home, business, college? Do an audit. List where it comes from, and what it is costing you. Plot a graph that shows what your addiction will cost you in five, ten, or fifteen years, based on the likely rise in the price of oil and gas. See

5. Admit to the Harm that our Addiction to Oil has Caused
Step Five: we are asked to come clean about the hurt, harm, and damage that our addiction has caused. The list is long. Has your country broken into countries in its desperation to get its fix? Has the company whose oil you use stolen land from native people in its desperation to find oil injection sites? What about all the children who lie in hospital beds suffocating from asthma, triggered by the smog that our addiction creates? What about future victims of global climate change, caused by our addiction? What about the tens of millions of people who will be forced to flee their homelands, as global sea levels rise? What about New Orleans? According to James Hansen, of NASA, the last time the world’s temperature was 3 degrees higher, the sea levels were 25 metres higher. See

6. Address the Weaknesses that Keep Us Addicted
Step Six: Admit to the weaknesses and shortcomings that keep us addicted, and seek to overcome them. The wily tax deals that give oil companies such a break. The lure of cheap, easy oil. The thrill of fast driving on an open road. And seek to overcome them. That means accepting the need for carbon taxes, and environmental tax-shifting to pay clean-up, instead of pretending the damage isn’t happening. It means introducing tax incentives and policies that will help the transition to sustainable energy. It means recognizing that it is long past time for a windfall tax on the oil dealers’ profits of $8 billion dollars a quarter ($3.6 million dollars an hour) that keep them drilling for more. See

7. Work with Businesses, Cities, and Nations to Help Each Other
In Step Seven, we are asked to make a list of all the people we have harmed, and make amends to them. It’s a long list, so we’d better join hands and make a shared commitment to work together to overcome our addiction. The world already has the Kyoto accord, cursed and maligned by unrepentant addicts everywhere. We need to strengthen the treaty, and establish new, stronger goals for the future. We need to persuade everyone to come on board, even those nations that are just beginning their addiction. We need cities to link hands and work to overcome their addiction, as 210 cities in the USA have done, following Seattle’s lead. We need businesses to form “end the addiction” clubs, where CEOs work together to reduce their emissions. See

8. Become Carbon Neutral
Step Eight: Continue to take a personal inventory of our conduct, and when we are wrong, to promptly admit it. This means tracking our carbon emissions, and taking steps not only to reduce them, but to offset them by purchasing carbon offset projects. Becoming carbon neutral is an important step on the road to full recovery. See

9. Involve your Friends and Community
Step Nine: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with sustainable energy, and ask for the power to implement our goals. (See Step Three). This becomes easier if we involve our friends and family, our fellow companies, and nearby cities and communities. This way, we can make joint investments in cycle-paths, transit systems, co-operatively owned wind turbines, and changed building codes, making it easier to kick the habit. See

10. Push for Political Change
In Step Ten, having realized the power of sustainable energy, we are asked to carry the message to other oilaholics, and to practice oil-reduction in all our affairs. For this we need to engage ourselves politically, and push our political leaders in Victoria, Quebec, Halifax, and Ottawa to introduce new legislation, and sustainable policies such as Ontario’s new Standard Offer Contract that guarantees the right of small producers of wind, biomass, small hydro and solar energy to have access to the grid at a supported, long-term price. We need to help everyone give up their addiction, so that the whole world can breathe more easily, no longer driven by the desperate quest for the next barrel.

Guy Dauncey is author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (New Society Publishers)