A Weekend Without Oil

An ad on a website alerted me to an upcoming non-event in which people will not do things in order to save energy. It’s a “Weekend Without Oil.” Such a thing is impossible, unless you want to stand naked in the back yard without consuming a single thing except grass – provided you haven’t used any petrochemical fertilizers or mowed it with a powered machine, of course. Oil is everywhere. It was once thought to be a boon to civilization until it became Gaia’s version of original sin, but it is still quite useful. You could even say invaluable, if you wanted to start a fight.

Says the site:


On August 21st and 22nd, commit to these 11 actions!

To the barricades, comrades. Let us strive to smash the driving-dog petro-lackeys and their revanchist designs! Mind you, I have no problem with conservation; waste not, want not, and all that. I just don’t want to adopt a pre-industrial lifestyle. Here are the ACTIONS to which we must COMMIT.

Walk or ride your bike: Avoid using cars and if you must, always try to carpool.

Sorry, no. Saturday I go grocery shopping. I will not walk for six miles lugging gallon-bladders of milk.

Enjoy the outdoors: Avoid buying new sporting equipment, since oil makes up nearly 25% of rubber. Footballs or basketballs, for example, can last for many years and used equipment is often just as good and will reduce demand for oil needed to make new rubber.

Not planning on buying a new football, so I’m good there. In fact my rubber needs are mostly met for the foreseeable future.

Use reusable bags: Avoid disposable plastic. Plastic bags are a huge waste for very little benefit. Nearly 10 percent of U.S. oil consumption, approximately 2 million barrels a day, is used to make plastic products alone.

That’s a bit disingenuous. “Plastic” comprises a wide variety of objects with innumerable purposes. Question for the activists: how much do you want to see the plastic-manufacturing work-force reduced? Ten percent? Twenty?

My store also collects old plastic bags, and I was under the impression they were made from corn. Everything is made out of corn these days. GM’s next car will be made out of corn and also run on corn, so if you run out of gas you can rip off a piece of the bumper and shove it in the tank.

Be conscious about what you eat that weekend: You can reduce oil demand by changing your diet to eat less meat, more local foods that require less transportation and organic food, which doesn’t use petro-based fertilizers.

You know which restaurant is the most popular with neighborhood foodies, to use a term I hate? A sushi joint. Shouldn’t sustainable-food people start picketing sushi bars? I’m pretty sure we don’t raise a lot of kelp and crab in the city.

Don’t buy new make-up that weekend: The majority of cosmetics are petroleum-based, including lip gloss, face powder, nail polish, and more. So avoid buying new make-up products this weekend and research the brands when you purchase in the future.

This I can do without significant alterations to my lifestyle.

Drink tap water: Avoid beverages bottled in disposable plastic, they make up nearly 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, so get a reusable bottle and fill it up.

This one’s fine, too; since I never bought the mystique of bottled water, it wasn’t hard to adjust when opinion pivoted and condemned the status symbol.

Make your electronic gadgets last: Avoid buying new electronics. Electronics take a lot of oil to produce and the gadgets you already have can last much longer than the rate at which new ones are released.

I just bought an electronic gadget: an HD Live unit, which lets me stream Netflix to my TV. This means I don’t have to drive to the video store or movie theater. Am I still a good person?

Go to the movies or stream them on Hulu: Avoid buying new DVDs/Blu-Rays, as oil is a key ingredient in their production, packaging and shipping.

Ah! Well, I didn’t see that was next. This I can do as well, since I don’t buy physical media. But I do plan to drive to Best Buy for some blank DVDs for storage. A 100-pack ought to do. But shouldn’t we just avoid watching movies altogether? Petroleum is used in every aspect of movie-making, and even if the movie’s mostly CGI, oil is used in the manufacture and transportation of computers, and they contain toxic chemicals. If someone recommends a fine foreign film – which possibly had to be flown over on a plane – shouldn’t I suddenly go all cool, and say “I thought you cared about the planet”?

Skip buying new clothes that weekend: Swap clothes with friends or check out the local vintage store. The less new clothes you buy the less oil is used in the manufacturing process and transportation.

And the more the clothing sector declines – but of course that would have no net effect, since all the clerks would get green-economy jobs building windmills. Even so, look at the benefits the Gap offers. As far as I can tell the benefits at the local vintage store consist of buy-one-get-one-free coupons for the local piercing store.

I will not be swapping clothes with friends, though. I’m a guy. We never find ourselves in the closet with a pal, looking through old T-shirts, saying “This would look great on you.”

Head to your local library or read online: Avoid using a printer and buying printed material including daily newspapers. Printing doesn’t just waste paper, nearly 100,000 gallons of ink each day is used on daily newspapers alone.

Oh Criminey Joseph, is there any industry they don’t want to hobble? “Avoid buying daily newspapers.” Not that people need encouragement, but is there any sane soul in the country who passes a rack of papers and feels a stab of pain over the amount of oil those journals represent? Note how the very act of using paper for its intended purpose is a “waste.” Ideally we should close the mills and leave the trees stand, I guess.

Spread the word! Get 3 friends to sign the pledge and help raise awareness on ways they can help reduce their dependence on oil-related products.

Note the word “dependence.” “Usage” is now flat-out “dependence.”

The page, as of this writing, says it’s offset 8000 barrels of oil. Assuming everyone who signed up does everything on the list. This is a ridiculously small amount of oil. As I may have mentioned, my family is in the petrochemical biz, with a gas station and a line selling fuels and lubricants. (We move them around in trucks! Petroleum consuming trucks full of petroleum! Evil compounded!) One of the clients is a railway, which uses unimaginable quantities of diesel to move goods from the ports across the plains. Carbon taxes, of course, would increase the price of everything the trains carry.

I’d say we spill more oil in a day than these people hope to save by avoiding newspapers and footballs, but we don’t spill a drop. We had to buy absorbent charcoal mats which are placed on the ground by the truck and the train. (In the winter the driver has to lug them up ice banks to get to the tracks.) In order to conform with environmental standards, the sites are photographed by orbital satellites to check for spillage. I am not, as a friend of mine says, making this up.