Meanwhile, things seem to be actually getting worse in the Gulf as BP and others try in vain to cauterize the open wound that they made in the middle of our ocean.
It's no wonder we all feel so powerless as we watch the devastation from our homes. Where was the emergency plan? Is there anything the rest of us can do to help while we wait?
Maybe now is the time to look at our consumption habits. Here are some tips to ween yourself off your oil dependency at home:
While only about 4 percent of our nation's oil consumption is in the residential sector, there are still things you should consider that might help take a morsel of power from BP and others who financially benefit from offshore drilling.
- 32 percent -- space heating
- 13 percent -- water heating
- 12 percent -- lighting
- 11 percent -- air conditioning
- 8 percent -- refrigeration
- 5 percent -- electronics
- 5 percent -- wet-clean (mostly clothes dryers)
1. Turn off the hot water
If your water is heated with an oil or natural gas heater, use less of it. Especially in the summer months, it's easy to do things like shave with the shower water turned off and soap up before rinsing. Also, wash dishes in cold water and buy cold-water detergents to run cold-water cycles in the laundry.
2. Consider the heat
Find out if oil is used to heat your home. Spend the summer months improving your insulation and looking into having better windows installed. If you are pretty sure your landlord won't get behind you on that one, invest in heavy window treatments and blankets while they are on sale. Blankets are especially versatile and can be hung over drafty windows and doors, not to mention wrapping yourself up in one instead of turning up the thermostat.
3. Paint without oil
By using house paints that do not have a petroleum base, you are not only cutting out another common use for oil, but it's a lot better for you too. Brands with low or zero VOC's include Green Planet Paint and Real Milk Paint.
4. Get an oil-free shine!
A lot of cleaners and detergents are actually made with petroleum. It works by surrounding dirt and pulling it off of surfaces and fabrics. However, many eco-friendly products are now on the market that are just as effective. Or consider making your own!
5. Don't drink the oil
Try to minimize purchases of drinks that come in plastic bottles. Plastic is made out of oil. So the less of it you buy, the less of it needs to be made.
6. Don't pack with oil -- or drink from it
Styrofoam is another product made from oil. Get it out of your house and don't buy it. If your local coffee vendor uses it, get your coffee elsewhere or bring your own travel mug.
7. Travel oil-free
The number one use for oil in America is obviously to gas up our engines. Now that the weather is better, dust off your bike and tennis shoes and try using your legs to get around. Maybe now is also the time to look into public transportation in your area.
8. Change the oily system
Pressure your landlord or building management into looking into alternative ways to heat your building. Go to them prepared with information about solar heating which is becoming a popular option with a far more limited environmental impact than oil.
9. Don't dress in oil
Both nylon and polyester are made from oil. So the next time you are out shopping, check the label to ensure that you are not wearing oil. And if you want to go a step further, clean out your closet of both fabrics (recycle, please!).
10. Act locally
Encourage friends and neighbors to get on board with your oil boycott. By sharing tips for using less oil, you are starting to make a dent in the amount of it we use every day. By weeding it out of our day-to-day lives, we can begin looking toward a future where our oceans, and all of us, are safer.
• Boycott canned beverages -- many cans are made by ARCO Aluminum, a BP affiliate.