Gulf Oil Spill Points Out What We Already Know – It’s Time to Get Off Oil
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It’s now been a month since the catastrophic drilling accident that lead to the loss of 11 lives and the spewing of at least 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day (some scientists say that number may be much higher).
We won’t spend time here elaborating on the unprecedented environmental disaster save to say that all conscientious people are taking a hard look at their lifestyle and evaluating how we can get this nasty black stuff out of our lives.
Many of us feel powerless about our reliance on oil – we need basic transportation, we need homes that are comfortable to live in, and power to do our jobs and run our households. How can we reduce the role of oil in our lives?
It’s Going Out the Window
What you may not know is that a shocking amount of oil in New England goes into heating our homes. The US Energy Information Administration says of Maine “About three-quarters of Maine’s households – the highest share in the Nation – use fuel oil for home heating.” That amounts to roughly 17 million barrels of oil used each year (Source:
This leads to a number of problems for us. Not only is it dangerous to use a product that is environmentally destructive, but we expose ourselves to the risk of a fluctuating market.
Maine has no fossil fuel reserves and no refining capacity – the crude oil that is imported into Portland Harbor is then shipped to refineries in Quebec or Ontario, Canada (again, US Energy Information Administration). We are vulnerable not only to ecological ramifications, but also to market forces.
Our dependence on oil emerged when fossil fuel was cheap, and weatherization poorly understood and not a priority. As a result, we see time and again inefficient mechanical systems installed on homes, causing expensive oil heat to pour, literally, out the window.
What About Electricity?
Electricity has an equally scary genesis. Maine does have a mandate for minimum 30% renewable electric sources, provided mostly by hydro. Clean, solar electric, which is proven in Maine, doesn’t yet register on the radar as a major energy source:
Instead, natural gas and oil, both fossil fuels, dominate our electricity consumption. The basic reality is that adoption of renewable energy is still very slow, though the need is more urgent than ever.
How You Can Change Your Relationship with Oil
Walk more, drive less. Eat local. And consider carefully how your home consumes energy.
In many houses, switching to a solar hot water system will conserve 300 gallons of oil a year, a savings of roughly 5,500 lbs of C02 emissions each year. An average home solar electric system (sized at 3kw) will save around 2,778 lbs of C02 emissions each year (mostly from coal-fired power plants).
Contact us to talk more. Or leave your suggestions for an oil-free planet below.