California Dreaming

California aspires to obtain all its electricity from renewable sources, 27 years hence. The great fly in the ointment? As always, corporate capitalism’s lifeblood commodity, the private automobile.

The reality is that the U.S. automotive fleet is now the nation’s #1 domestic GHG emitter, out-GHG-polluting not just each of the economy’s other four end-use sectors (farms, retailers, factories, households), but also the entire electricity-generation industry. And the gulf will only widen.

ghg graph
Source: Bloomberg Finance LP 2018

All unmentioned and unmentionable, of course…

What Causes Obesity?

emperor on parade In America, it has long been taboo to pay critical attention to automobiles’ centrality in our lives. It remains a very effective and important taboo.

Witness “The Toll of America’s Obesity,” an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times. In it, a pediatrician and an economist, both from Harvard, review the basic facts about the continuing escalation of obesity rates and burdens in the United States. In the author’s view, obesity is a “diet-related disease.”

And, indeed, so it is.

But can anybody think of another reason why obesity has been relentlessly worsening across recent decades? Might it have anything to do with the continuing automobilization of our lifespaces? Might worsening fatness in America also be caused by our ever-deepening, never-so-much-as-mentioned subjection to mandatory cars-first transportation policies and outcomes?

The question answers itself, yet remains utterly out-of-bounds. This is true even on the political left, which has never quite summoned the chutzpah to take the first step toward transcending prevailing ideology/taboo. That first step would be a serious class analysis of transportation in the USA.

Foxes Planning New Henhouse

fox guarding henhouseFord Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett is at the Consumer Electronics Show — the “Global Stage for Innovation” no less! (nobody ever said decrepit elites learn humility as they necrose) — today revealing some info about how his corporation is planning to keep selling its massively outdated product and, incidentally, to thereby keep the American population ensconced in market totalitarianism. As ever, the bedrock material basis for that latter outcome, so vital to our runaway overclass, is perpetuation of cars-first transportation.

Doing that, of course, requires deepening the already huge primacy of the automobile in urban planning, at a time when doing so is patently ecocidal and sociopathic.

At this point, this is going to require a new level of explicitness, as one can tell by this Automotive News headline:

Hackett says Ford expanding mobility vision beyond cars to cities

In order to peddle the “self-driving” products they obviously see as the next trick to make cars look modern rather than archaic, the automotive industrialists know they’ll have to build massive computing power into the physical features of towns and cities. Hence, this kind of stuff.

Of course, DbC remains more than a little unsure any of this will actually ever come to much fruition, as it would require huge breakthroughs in technological capability and reliability, as well as in theories of legal non-liability.

Luckily for people like Mr. Hackett, the automobile remains sacrosanct in this society. Even our concerned scientists and sputtering proto-social-movements still fear to mention it, as they scramble to euphemize their way around its catastrophic portents.

Those Who Love Hurricanes

Corporate capitalism, by design, commodifies everything and mal-distributes income. As a result, it paints its own primary beneficiaries into a corner, even as it sustains their obscene wealth and increasingly decrepit power. As silly products proliferate and the bottom 2/3 of the population goes without discretionary income, it gets harder and harder for corporate marketers to sell new rounds of goods and services. The only possible answer, from the perspective of the investing class, is selling more and more waste to people who still have money to spend.

The ultimate corporate capitalist waste platform is the private automobile. Within a publicly-provided cars-first infrastructure, such machines are not only themselves spectacularly and optimally wasteful, but also enable and stimulate the second great vector for profitable squander, the suburban house-and-yard.

For cars themselves, the ultimate dream for capitalists would be the one described in The Waste Makers, Vance Packard’s 1960 non-fiction best-seller:

The motorcars of Cornucopia will be made of a lightweight plastic that develops fatigue and begins to melt if driven for more than four thousand miles.

That, of course, was an illustrative exaggeration. Individual car owners will not tolerate such directly obvious capitalist tactics. They demand some longevity with their waste.

But consider what we will tolerate collectively: For car-sellers, Hurricane Harvey is very good news, for exactly Packard’s reason. Per today’s edition of Automotive News:

With the storm potentially having damaged 1 million vehicles in Houston, the rush is on in states near and far to acquire and ship new ones into the city.

“We see multi-faceted benefits to new vehicle sales, new vehicle inventories, and used vehicle prices,” Ryan Brinkman, an auto analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a report Tuesday. Prior to Harvey, weak used-car values had been one of investors’ “chief concerns” with the auto industry, he said.

Such is the stuff of 2017. Our grandchildren will never stop vomiting.

Chutzpah, Unchallenged

Prideful delusion is an interesting and important human phenomenon, with obvious Freudian origins and still-huge ability to pass without serious criticism in a supposedly ultra-informed, seriously democratic society. Foaming, torch-carrying neo-confederates say they aren’t racist. The Ford Motor Company, one the major purveyors of the machine that obviously and aggressively undermines its own feigned concerns (cities and the human future) dares to pontificate (and fudge) about “The City of Tomorrow.” Witness:

Notice the tagline there on the Youtube page: “For the first time in our planet’s history, half of the world’s population lives in cities.” Are suburbs cities? Yes, according to Ford, but no according to actual logic. Yet those are the massively unsustainable, fastest-growing places in which the majority of the U.S. population now lives, thanks to Ford and the rest of our car-addicted corporate overclass.

Proving Grounds for Radical Bias

The United States Department of Transportation “is requesting proposals from applicants to form an initial network of multiple proving grounds, focused on the advancement of automated vehicle technology.” Why is the public doing the automotive corporations’ job for them, to say nothing of the question of why THIS, this subsidy to one of human history’s worst, most dangerous technologies, rather than to test sustainable transportation/societal reconstruction/ecological survival projects?

It’s all iced with the usual Orwellian pronouncements. “Safety is our top priority,” says the Transportation Secretary, despite the sheer impossibility that any conceivable cars-first transportation order will ever approach the safety and fitness of the civilized, walking-and-bicycling-and-rail arrangement that has always been anathema to our market-totalitarian overclass.

Outdated Technology Worship

Our grandchildren, should we somehow figure out how to leave them a world still capable of such activities, will spend considerable time pondering how and why we allowed our overclass to keep pushing the reign of the automobile for so long after it was eminently clear that relying on moving 3,500 machines for every mundane urban travel task was a very bad idea indeed.

Some of their answer will have to acknowledge the continuance of shameless corporate dogma. Take, for instance, this howler:

So, computers are somehow going to defeat the spatial requirements of moving a 200-million-plus fleet of cars and trucks? Wanna bet?

Despite the silliness of the suggestion, it is a mistake to underestimate the impact of this kind of pie-in-the-sky propaganda. It is a powerful distraction.