Letter: Do we need all that oil, or do we only want to waste it?

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The Independent Online
From Mr Richard Gibbens

Sir: For all his criticism of events leading up to the Sea Empress incident and evident distress at the results, Professor Alasdair McIntyre concludes his article ("Was this spill inevitable?", 22 February) with disappointing fatalism.

On the one hand, he says, "we want to be able to enjoy a pristine marine environment, with its wildlife, opportunities for recreation and its possibilities for fishing. On the other, there is society's need for oil." (My italics.) Apparently it is a case of weighing life's pleasures against life's necessities. There is little suggestion that a clean marine environment might be a need no less fundamental, nor is there a challenge to the nature and scale of the "need" for oil.

We should not resign ourselves to the occasional environmental disaster on grounds of social necessity. How much of the Sea Empress's cargo would end up as discarded plastic packaging? How much was destined to be burnt in poorly insulated houses? How much in motor racing, power boating and recreational flying? How much, above all, in thousands of energy-wasteful car journeys?

These, before passing the buck to "society's need for oil", are the questions the Government should be asking and which we should ask ourselves in our individual, day-to-day choices about oil consumption

Yours sincerely,

Richard Gibbens

Kendal, Cumbria

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