Oil consumption

Farm Forum

Gas prices are as high as an Irishman at an out-of-town picnic, and now I read of the diminishing supply of oil in the world.

Although western North Dakota’s endless supply might change all that. I figured I should write about the energy situation because I’m something of an expert on oil consumption.

As a kid I ate the stuff. Well, not exactly. I chewed it. So did all my buddies.

It tasted terrible, but the older guys in my home town said it was good for our teeth. It would make them whiter, they said.

So on those hot summer days in the Dust Bowl 1930s, we’d scout around in town until we found a particularly enticing bubble of tar that had risen from the road. It was pure and shiny and in looks resembled licorice.

It also looked deceptively delicious.

We dabbed all we could get on our pointing fingers, put it in our mouths and chewed it as best we could. It took courage to chew the foul-tasting, sticky stuff for very long, but we knew the longer we chomped down on it, the whiter our teeth would become, and maybe that would lead to starring roles in Gene Autry movies in Hollywood.

It was a matter of pride and courage for us, too.

It wasn’t really oil that we chewed, but a derivative called tar.

Most people then called the paved roads “tar roads,” but that was usually shortened to just “tar.”

“How far is it out to the Guindon place?”someone would ask.

“Well, lessee,” my dad would say, removing his cap and holding it by the bill while scratching the back of his head, “you take the tar out south of town for three miles until the tar runs out, then the gravel road four more miles.” Dad drove the co-op oil truck with its jingling grounding chain dragging in its wake, throwing off sparks on tar and gravel. He knew where everyone lived.

By digging up those tar bubbles for our own cosmetic use, we probably helped bring the world to the point where today, gas costs an arm and a leg.

We in the United States are gluttons for oil.

Back in my tar chewing days, we were unwittingly contributing to what is now rapidly disappearing from the sub-surface of the earth. I have read that Saudi Arabia, the world’s oil fountain, figures it has about fifty more years worth roiling around under its sand.

Someone told me that a steer required an agricultural investment of about 283 gallons (six barrels) of oil to get it to 1,250 pounds. That’s counting everything from the oil used to make fertilizer to the diesel to power the farm equipment or haul salt blocks from town in the back of a pickup truck.

And that’s not all. Those big monster cars driven around by a few who either have lots of money or very poor judgment, make just ten miles to the gallon. Our government actually encourages gas consumption. A business can deduct up to $100,000 for the biggest SUVs.

But I can’t be too critical of farmers or the big car drivers or the SUV people, because I was doing my wasteful part leading up to this depleted oil picture in the world because I was literally consuming finger ball upon finger ball of oil as a kid.

I don’t know if it helped the health of my teeth. But my dentist made out okay. In fact, I understand he’s thinking about using some of what I’ve spent on him over the years to buy himself a super-sized SUV.

If you’d like to make a comment, e-mail the author at cfcecil@swiftel.net.