oil addiction

Not since he bought into the phrase "Axis of Evil" has President Bush employed another phrase of comparable power--and controversy--until he recently declared that our nation is "addicted to oil." That addiction, particularly to gasoline, is not provincially American; it is rapidly spreading to India and China as it earlier had spread to Europe (this occurrence marked by the first notes of George Gershwin's "An American in Paris").

The problem is not the consumption of gasoline but the automobile that voraciously consumes it. Described by Henry Ford as a liberating agent, the automobile has ensnarled our lives on city roads, on interstate highways and in shopping mall parking lots. Architects have made their own measure of the problem by moving the garage from its earlier detached, back-of- the-house location to its current thrust into first-place as the dominant feature (exclusive of cathedral ceilings) of the contemporary house.

The automobile is a prosthetic device, replacing legs as the primary form of human locomotion.

And so, it's not an "addiction to oil" that is the root of the problem but the ages-old desire to move faster in order to save time. The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset said that we hurry because we are mortal: we want to make the most of our days. Traffic delays, however, are modern forms of frustration, thus impeding that objective. And so, neither ethanol nor hydrogen as an automobile fuel alternative will cause the removal of speed bumps or cause traffic signals to be adjusted so that the green light shines longer on your lane or mine.

Ray Betts