“Americans are having a love affair with the automobile” has long been the quasi-official explanation for why, here in America, we never discuss our suicidal, waste-maximizing way of arranging everyday locomotive. Problem though: If this thesis were accurate, would the phrase itself not be quite old vis-a-vis the ascendance of the automobile itself? It isn’t:
Bill McKibben, never one to think too hard about his own limitations, still says “the source of the problem” is “the fossil fuel industry and its lock on Washington.” That’s like saying the problem in Greensboro in 1960 was the cheeseburgers.
The fossil fuel industry, for starters, is largely the oil industry, which is a subsidiary component of the automotive-industrial complex. That, the promoter of one of corporate capitalism’s few true core commodities — the private automobile — is, in turn, a literal institutional requirement of corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism, which requires the reign of the car plus its half-dozen other major industrial complexes/capital-friendly-forms-of-colossal-ecocidal-waste-in-which-fossil-fuel-combustion-is-but-a-symptom, is the source of the problem.
Anybody who can’t or won’t say that is no friend of the dwindling prospect of progressive human survival. “Green car” is a screamingly obvious oxymoron. Yet, the entire anti-fossil-fuels movement is premised on at least implying the contrary.
History suggests that social movements face enough obstacles. There is simply no room for adding in the fatal error of being coy and/or deluded about what we need and demand.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Orwellianly-named (ponder the concept: “highway safety”) federal agency in charge of making sure the inherently dangerous, planet-killing technology known as the automobile keeps a viable public image, “car crashes are one of the leading killers of U.S. children age 1 to 13.” That’s the audio product. When it comes time to put the story in print, the NHTSA writes: “Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old.” [emphasis added in both quotes]
Why does the NHTSA pull its punches in this blatant manner? Can anybody think of a reason? Could it be that perpetuating cars-first transportation is “one of” the sociopathic behaviors our corporate overclass can’t live without?
As any experience with the MSM confirms in spades, automobiles, despite the times, remain the #1 source of advertising revenue. They are also the keystone commodity in the overall operation of corporate capitalism. Hence, is it any surprise the The New York Times has publicly scolded John M. Broder for daring to do an actual report, rather than a standard MSM
advertorial “car review” — on the experience of using a $74,200 “electric” car?
As DbC noted in our last post, Broder took delivery of his Tesla S and used it to see if Tesla had indeed fulfilled its promise of creating an infrastructure that would facilitate “a speedy electric-car road trip between here [Washington D.C.] and Boston.” As Broder reported, this promise remains a huge lie. The actual trip required long waits for charges and repeatedly refraining from normal use of the car.
Readers can read the charges and answers for themselves. The main digs against Broder are 1) that he failed to leave his test car plugged in overnight, and 2) that he didn’t stay around for a full charge (which would have taken several hours) on an emergency charging stop imposed by the lack of charge after a cold, unplugged overnight stay in Groton, Connecticut.
Of course, Broder’s mission was to test the Tesla promise of easy travel based on its East Coast “Supercharger” stations, not to see if his trip was possible by any means whatsoever, or with a dozen footnotes.
After getting flak from Tesla “Chairman, Product Architect & CEO” Elon Musk, in the form of special pleading and attempts to change Broder’s question, here is the final verdict of The Times‘
Flak Catcher Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan:
Did he [Broder] use good judgment along the way? Not especially.
Wow! That is not a small rebuke in such a form from such a boss in such a trade. One hopes Mr. Broder knows some good employment lawyers…
Meanwhile, Sullivan’s weighing of this issue confirms, once again, the importance of the filters that operate in MSM journalism. In explaining her attack on Broder, Sullivan admits the special lengths to which she felt compelled to go on on one particular side of this question:
I’ve also had a number of talks with my brother, a physician, car aficionado and Tesla fan, who has helped me balance what might have been a tendency to unconsciously side with a seasoned and respected journalist – my own “confirmation bias.”
Funny, that: Her self-described “bias” is to trust a seasoned and respected journalist. Her professional, deeeply considered “corrective” is to give great weight to an over-privileged pro-car, pro-Tesla ideologue!
One might wonder how many anti-car activists Ms. Sullivan drew into her consideration here…
In a statement, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland stressed vigilance: “Even as we celebrate [yes, he said “celebrate”] the progress we’ve made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.”
“The safety issues” of which Administrator Strickland speaks? “Those” would be the automobile itself, would “they” not?
As for “the progress we’ve made in recent years,” that is otherwise known as the Great Recession.
Look for a huge spike in U.S. traffic deaths in 2012. Should be another lesson in Big Brotherism when they make that jump official.
Highlights [via Automotive News]:
Ford has been thinking about “how we’re going to have mobility in a world of urbanization and 75 percent of the world’s population living in cities. We’re going to have 4 billion cars and 9 billion people by midcentury.
There are currently just over 1 billion automobiles, counting cars, trucks, and buses, on the planet, btw.
So, ROFL on that one.
Meanwhile, Bill Ford also told the assembled reporters that cars-first transportation isn’t like selling nicotine:
“I never wanted us to be like the tobacco [companies], where our employees would have to apologize to their family and friends for working there. If that happens, we are not going to get the best and brightest.”
It’s an interesting contrast, isn’t it? If Ford’s products are freedom vehicles and wonder machines, why this apparent slip into cigarette talk?
Perhaps it’s because Ford knows the numbers are rather comparably large and the deaths equally stupid. In the USA, lung cancer now kills about 160,000 people a year. If one assumes that tailpipe exhaust accounts for 25% percent of air pollution deaths and auto use accounts for 10% of deconditioning deaths, cars snuff out about half that amount every year.
And, of course, the era of war over access to tobacco-friendly climes has passed. Now, if there is to be a World War III, does anybody doubt it will instead have rather more to do with what goes into gas tanks?
Tom Zeller, Jr. is Arianna Huffington’s “senior energy and environment writer.” Here is Mr. Zeller’s take on the meaning of the Keystone XL ruse:
This debate pits rich and powerful fossil fuel interests, which, for both good and ill, have shaped and dominated the last century of American economic, industrial and political life, against a growing swell of citizens who insist that it’s high time — for the sake of the planet and everyone who breathes — to turn the page and support cleaner alternatives.
Wrong — radically wrong — at both ends, Tom.
First of all, not only is the Keystone XL scuffle a minor issue to the ruling class, that ruling class is absolutely not organized around “fossil fuel interests,” as if the system is just randomly corrupt. In reality, we live under corporate capitalism. As such, the most important systemic and practical factor is maximum salable waste, not the random promotion of one or another “bad apple” industry. The ultimate problem — the one that makes fossil fuel interests so crucial — is cars and the geo-spatial sprawl they engendered. The oil companies are certainly a major part of the automotive industrial complex, but they are secondary, not primary, in it. The point, to the overclass, is to find a way to keep selling 10 million new cars every year. Change that, and oil becomes a minor issue. Fail to even mention it, and oil is certain to keep flowing in present patterns, Keystone or no Keystone, until there’s no more oil left.
Second, what cleaner alternatives? The so-called “electric” car, pathetic as it is, is actually running on hydrocarbon combustion and nuclear fission. If you are going to paint “cleaner alternatives” to oil as so readily doable, then you are obliged to offer evidence of their viability. Of course, you can’t, because your suggestion there is even more dishonest than the silly idea that the Keystone XL project is somehow vital to the national interest and/or the human future.
With allies like these, who needs enemies? Today’s addition to the DbC Hall of Mirrors hails from Australia. He is Ted Trainer, “environmentalist and author.” Apparently, he’s about as smart as he looks:
Many on the left would share your concern for sustainability but would question your focus on “consumerism” and “affluence”. Most working class people have little choice about housing, transport, car usages or buying product that have been produced in harmful ways. Your response?
Yes it’s true that most people are locked into consumer society due to faulty systems and structures that, for example, force people to drive to work. But I do insist that the demand for affluence is a key driver of today’s major global problems.
As such, the main target, the main problem group is not the corporations or the capitalist class. They have their power because people in general grant it to them. The problem group, the key to transition, is people in general.
The problem is people in general! Wow.
Consider the fact that Zerobama is in mildly warm water for leaning on the Ford Motor Company to yank a television ad bragging about Ford not taking government bailout money. Zerobama, bailer-out of not just the automotive corporations but the whole array of for-profit medical operators, and self-conscious (and highly effective) pitchfork deflector, might or might not have sent a letter to Ford asking it to suppress its ad.
In response, the far-rightists are now trying to turn that possible act into political hay.
The issue at the heart of the matter, meanwhile, is how much validity resides in the pulled ad, which apparently ran as follows:
The Ford commercial was the first time an automaker had made the message part of a national ad campaign.
The ad is part of Ford’s “Drive One” campaign to win over consumers from other brands. In it, a Ford owner, identified only as Chris, says, “I wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government. I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw.”
The proposition here (and its amplification by the R wing of the ruling duopoly) is a moderately clever and completely typical move: No mainstream politician, Ford and and the Rs know, is either permitted or inclined to mention the fact that cars-first transportation would not exist, were it not for huge annual flows of public preference and subsidy. The annual cost of road-building alone is larger than the entire automotive bailout program was, and also far larger than the portion of the bailout loans that will not be recouped.
We won’t go into details about the portion of the nation’s police, court, and hospital costs caused by cars-first transportation.
Suffice it to say that the notion that any car-related capitalist is “standing on its own” is simply Orwellianly and petulantly deluded and dishonest. Only in America, as they say!