Volume 1, Number 2 (2008)

From Lifeblood to Addiction: Oil, Space, and the Wage Relation in Petro-Capitalist USA

Matthew T. Huber

Clark University 


As former oil executive, and noted hand-holder of the Saudi oil Sheiks, it had to be ironic  that George W. Bush (2006) declared, in his state of the union address“…[H]ere we have a serious problem – America is addicted to oil.” By 2008, George apparently forgot about this serious problem.  Showing classic addictive behavior, he made two trips (in January and May) to Saudi Arabia, shamelessly begging the kingdom to pump more oil onto the market.2  In the face of $4 gasoline, he also announced strong support for offshore oil drilling, which led to John McCain’s inane campaign slogans, “drill here, drill now, pay less” and “drill baby drill.”  From a historical perspective, the emergence of the notion of “oil addiction” represents something of a metaphorical shift.  For most of 20th century – and even today – oil has been constructed as the “lifeblood” of American society; a wondrous resource absolutely central to the basic reproduction of everyday life.  Rather than naturalize oil’s centrality as “lifeblood,” however, Bush’s “addiction” metaphor positions oil as a kind of unnatural fluid embedded in the American bloodstream; no longer central to “life”, but threatening it.