John-Paul Flintoff

Climate change: well oiled

Three years ago, before I first read the International Energy Agency warning that cheap oil was running out and there would be a ‘supply crunch’ by 2012, the Flintoff family consumed average amounts of oil, probably more.

It’s difficult to say exactly how much that is, but the average person in the UK emits around 10 tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to burning 25 to 30 barrels of oil. If your income is above average and you spend most of it – as we do – you probably burn substantially more. So that’s at least 90 barrels burnt by just three of us.

Most of us have little concept of how much we use. Why should we? Our towns, cities and transport systems were not built with a view to oil running out. To reduce our oil use, I’ve switched to wind power for our electricity supply, bought an electric car, largely stopped flying, travelled by coach and bus instead of car when possible, stopped shopping in supermarkets and had local organic food delivered to my door in a reusable cardboard box.

Roughly half the oil we account for individually is burnt up on our behalf by the industries that feed consumerism or provide public services – in the form of household goods (carpets, curtains, loo seats, paint), medical products (heart valves, artificial limbs, anaesthetics, medicines), toiletries (toothpaste and brushes, deodorant, soap) – and clothes.

If we’re not to deprive our children and grandchildren of similar goods, we must learn to reduce our consumption and reuse what we have. The era of hydrocarbon man is coming to a close.

269 words. First published 3 November 2007. © Times Newspapers Ltd.

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