The private automobile is close to the perfect capitalist product. It is huge, fragile, highly amenable to styling, requires vast supporting and allied industries, and, once its infrastructure has been built, damned close to a mandatory possession. It is highly profitable overkill, calling forth far more business opportunities than would exist in any genuinely economical and sane transportation order.
As everybody knows, the United States, being thoroughly dominated by its corporate overclass, has utterly tied itself to cars-first transportation. As a result, as offshoring and Peak Oil have taken hold, the whole arrangement has been rotting away, creating increasing socio-economic devastation. More and much worse is sure to come, as the overclass continues to plan for perpetual reliance on cars-first living.
One huge indicator of the problems at hand is the fate of Detroit, Michigan, the famous Motor City. During the 2011 Super Bowl, Chrysler had the clever idea to turn Detroit’s misery into a new way of pitching its products. Eminem made this ad, which suggests that Chrysler doing well would somehow revive Detroit, despite the fact that Chrysler, like all car capitalists, uses automation and offshoring to constantly reduce its labor costs.
Now, in a very telling move, the new CEO of Chrysler is none other than the marketing genius that thought up this lovely zombie strategy. Not an engineer. An advertising man.
Case-in-point? This amazing tripe on “energy shaming” from Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk:
What Saves Energy? Shame
Just about every North American knows that we live as large as Las Vegas when it comes to consuming oil, electricity or natural gas. We are the world’s fattest and laziest energy consumers (and our growing corpulence reflects this bitter truth). But, hey, we can’t stop snacking, let alone employing more energy slaves.
We are also procrastinators. If we can put off insulating the attic or saving for a rainy day, we’ll do so. Like healthy dining, energy conservation typically closes a thousand eyelids and gets put off till tomorrow. We are a mañana species and our high-octane living embraces inertia the way TV watchers love couches.
Some of us consume [question for Nikiforuk: some don't? Do tell...] but most of us are addicts.
After taking his turn thoughtlessly perpetuating the word “consumer” and snapping off such huge and baseless insults to ordinary people, does Nikiforuk suggest politicizing capitalism, democratizing economic decisions, or reconstructing social infrastructure? Nope. Instead, he’s a fan of hanging up signs in hotels and inserting more paper into electric bills!
OPOWER, an energy efficiency software company based in Virginia, whose political neighbor (West Virginia) removes the tops of mountains to make electricity for iPods and the like, applied that concept to electricity billing. It paired up with utility companies to create a bill that showed power users how their flicking and switching compared to that of their neighbors.
If scaled nationwide, a program like this could reduce U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electric power by 0.5 per cent.
Yes, good luck with that. Elitist technocratic shaming to solve less than one percent of the problem. ROFLMFAO.
As part of their ongoing efforts to perpetuate cars-first transportation, car capitalists in the United States continue to spread the notion that there is or ever could be such a thing as an automobile that is a “zero emissions vehicle,” a.k.a. “ZEV.”
As the slightest thought reveals, this is a 100 percent deceptive claim. We know, for instance, that manufacturing the battery pack for a so-called electric car releases 3.8 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And that is before the so-called electric auto has been driven an inch, i.e. before accounting for the emissions from the coal and nuclear power plants that make the electricity that drive the car’s motor.
Want a couple of yardsticks for assessing just how aggressively dishonest the “ZEV” label really is (and also just how puny checks on capitalist power are in the United States)?
In the UK, corporations are not allowed to run ads that state the “ZEV” claim.
The United States Department of Energy, meanwhile, is fully aware that serious analysis of the emissions impact of all automobiles requires well-to-wheels (WTW), not just tank-to-wheels (TTW), accounting. That’s because every car is a machine that not only gets driven, but also manufactured and fueled. So, the energy and emissions footprint of any and all cars involves both well-to-tank and tank-to-wheels sums. In mathematically form, WTW = WTT + TTW, and this is as elementary and inescapably true as 2 + 2 = 4.
It is the absolute height of dishonesty to lop off and suppress either half of this reality.
Nevertheless, the ZEV formula is 2 + 0 = 0.
It is also the depth of corrupt inaction to permit such dishonesty to rule the day. And of course, that is precisely, exactly what the supposedly public authorities of the United States are doing, despite knowing full well better. “[C]lose attention should be paid to WTT as well as TTW activities,” states the Argonne National Laboratory, to no effect whatsoever on public policy.
Now, there’s your true zero.
P.S. As Billy Bragg once noted in a rather prescient song (“North Sea Bubble“) about Peak Oil, the Russians used to joke that, after the collapse of the USSR, the elites who had once told them that 2 + 2 = 10 were now arguing that 2 + 2 = 5. In the USA, we’re no closer to 2 + 2 = 4 than any of that. Indeed, our overclass’s minimizations of dangers might soon prove to be rather a bit worse than Soviet and Russian exaggerations.
In the first six months of 2011, in the United States, “Nissan sold 3,875 Leafs while GM sold 2,745 Volts.” Hence, if we suspend logic and accept that these figures are not exaggerations like virtually everything else claimed about these machines, there are now 6,620 Leafs and Volts among the 246,000,000 cars and trucks currently operating on U.S. roads.
So, to do the math: At this rate, it would take 186 years for so-called “electric” cars to reach the status of being one percent of the present U.S. automotive fleet.
Meanwhile, Nissan has just announced — wait for it — a $2,420 price increase on the cheapest version of next year’s Leaf.
Finally, this is not exactly the newest news, but check out this prediction of dangerous (and presumably catastrophically expensive) collision-induced intrusions into “EV” battery packs.
All this supports DbC’s thesis that the “electric car” is a mere placeholder promulgated to trick people, not excluding the hordes of phony greens who continue to swallow the bait, into giving corporate capitalists another decade or two to finish sucking all the wealth they can out of human history’s greatest infrastructural boondoggle, the cars-first transportation system of the United States.
In a story that provides more evidence that, as the late Marvin Harris argued and virtually all modern “culture” theorists and most would-be car critics ignore, ideas tend to follow rather than lead infrastructural circumstances, it seems that Peak Oil has begun to kill the Old West/redneck marketing appeal of the pickup truck in the United States. Seems that GM has so over-produced pickups that its dealers are now in possession of enough stock to last them through year’s end.
The reason for this overstock, of course, was GM’s hope that reality would continue on as always. “We thought that this year would bring back the kind of economic activity that would translate into us selling more trucks,” a GM dealer tells Automotive News.
Why that particular hope? Because, vis-a-vis the question of transportation efficiency, pickup trucks and SUVs are double-overkill, and hence much more profitable to capitalists than small, more rational automobiles. Because they pile on even more unnecessary equipment and material than do passenger cars, “Pickups generate more profit per vehicle than passenger cars, analysts say.”
Of course, this is hardly a landslide yet. As Automotive News reports, “Full-size pickups are still the two top-selling vehicles in the U.S. Ford sold 264,079 F-Series in the year’s first half, a 9.9 percent increase, while customers bought 182,785 of GM’s Silverado, a gain of 9.6 percent. The volumes are much lower than before the recession and the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler Group LLC.”
And why do I say pickup equipment is unnecessary?
Percent of pickup owners who never haul items in the truck bed: 27
Additional percent who do so less than monthly: 30
[Note: The above statistics are from the 2005 "Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey" done by R.L. Polk for the Environmental Defense Fund. For some reason, this piece of research seems to have been disappeared from the whole internet, including the EDF's website.]
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