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Commentary: Confessions of an energy junkie

A few years ago, I ran out of gas less than a block from an Exxon station.

Walked the mile home. Got the gas can. Drove to a different service station.

I'm still sore about the company's arrogant attitude after the Exxon Valdes disaster in 1989. They tried to blame others for the catastrophe. Haven't filled up at their pumps since.

So you'd think I'd be an ally of those hereabouts who are calling for a boycott of BP.

Sorry, gang. I appreciate your frustration, and I respect your activism. But leave me out.

I have my reasons and I doubt they are popular. But facts are facts and they must be faced.

Drill we must.

For better or worse, we are a nation absolutely addicted to energy. We want hot showers, refrigerated food, televised dance competitions. We want air-conditioned homes, streets aglow with light and instant communication.

We want to drive wherever we want, whenever we want.

Let a storm knock out power, even for just a few hours, and it's like a trip to the Stone Age.

Per capita, Americans are among the planet's runaway leaders in energy consumption. We're happy as hogs at the trough.

Three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf, the federal government announced a broader zone for offshore exploration.

"By responsibly expanding conventional energy development and exploration here at home, we can strengthen our energy security, create jobs and help rebuild our economy," said Interior secretary Ken Salazar.

More energy, more paychecks, less reliance on the Arabs. All good stuff.

Then, ka-boom.

That's the other part of the equation we like to blissfully ignore. Fact is, energy is a perilous business fraught with risk.

Coal mine disasters in West Virginia. Acid rain. Chernobyl. Three Mile Island. Exxon Valdez. Now, a disaster in the Gulf.

We want our gadgets, we want our freedom and we want it all without any mess.

Since the oil embargos of the '70s, we've been told we must consume less. But our energy calories have only increased.

This slow-motion tragedy off Louisiana grows more dire day by day. Before it's over, we might see the effects catching the Gulf Stream and coming home to soil the Outer Banks.

We'll be entering the Blame Phase soon enough. There will be plenty to go around. BP is getting fitted now for its horns and pointed tail.

But count me out of the boycott. When it's all over, I'll be an unindicted co-conspirator.

I'm an energy junkie, you see, and BP was working for me.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Mark Washburn is a columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He can be reached by e-mail at mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com.

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