Kicking the oil addiction: Miles to go…

On Saturday 17 March, over 10,000 people coming from all over the United States marched on the Pentagon in Washington DC protesting the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq.

They braved freezing temperatures – and lots of rain, sleet and snow. I could only admire the resolve of these people, some of whom I saw on my way to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History for an afternoon of film screenings.

As The Washington Post reported on Sunday: “The march, part of a weekend of protests that included smaller demonstrations in other U.S. cities and abroad, comes as the Bush administration sends more troops to Iraq in an attempt to regain control of Baghdad and Congress considers measures to bring U.S. troops home.”

Meanwhile, the DC Environmental Film Festival was taking a closer look at one major reason why the US went to war in Iraq: oil.

Addicted to Oil is the title of a new documentary on Discovery Channel. This one-hour documentary, reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times, explores his ideas for a “geo-green alternative” — a multi-layered strategy for tackling a host of problems, from the funding of terrorist supporters through America’s gasoline purchases, to strengthening US economy through innovative technology.

See interview extracts on Discovery website

Watch the first few minutes of Addicted to Oil:

I missed his panel discussion because of exceedingly cold and damp weather on Friday evening. But this is a topic that will continue to dominate the environmental and security agendas for years to come.

And it’s something that I myself have written about. When the US and its ‘Coalition of the Willing’ were about to move into Iraq in March 2003, I wrote an op ed essay titled “Oil, Iraq & Water: Will The Media Get This Big Story?”. It was globally syndicated by Panos Features, and appeared in quite a number of newspapers, magazines and websites at the time.

The full essay is found online on, of all places, the Sri Lankan government’s official website! Here’s a short extract:

It’s not just the United States that is addicted to oil – we all are. Addicts tend to lose sight of the cost of their dependence, as we have. On 24 March 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on in Prince William Sound in Alaska and a fifth of its 1.2 million barrels of oil spilled into the sea, causing massive damage to over 3,800 km of shoreline. Investigations implicated its captain for grossly neglecting duty. Shortly afterwards, Greenpeace ran a major advertising campaign with the headline: ‘It wasn’t his driving that caused the Alaskan oil spill. It was yours.’

Greenpeace continued: ‘It would be easy to blame the Valdez oil spill on one man. Or one company. Or even one industry. Too easy. Because the truth is, the spill was caused by a nation drunk on oil. And a government asleep at the wheel.’

A nation drunk on oil is waging a war that has more to do with oil than anything else. Our news media are behaving just like cheer-leaders.

Read the full essay here.

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

2 thoughts on “Kicking the oil addiction: Miles to go…”

  1. Nations drunk on oil, squandering the future of our species and our planet…this is the legacy of our fossil fools.

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