Barackie and Georgie, Sitting in a Tree…

As always, Obama is a very major obstacle here, not any kind of change-bringer.

bushobama In his 2006 State of the Union speech, George W. Bush “admitted” that “America is addicted to oil.”

Today, Barack H. Obama, speaking in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, concurred with the now-official diagnosis of what ails the nation:  “We know that our dependence on foreign oil endangers our security and our economy.”

This, of course, is utter poppycock, at both ends.

The object of addiction is cars, not oil.  Automotive engines burn 71 percent of the petroleum used in the United States. And certainly at least another 10 percent of the country’s oil-use goes into manufacturing cars and car parts and facilitating related services, plus the making of asphalt for automotive roads.

So, remove the cars, and 80 percent of the oil demand disappears.

And — of course —  Bush and Obama also mis-identify the addicts.  Not only do the rich buy far more cars and use far more oil, but they are the primary beneficiaries of the corporate economy, which is intractably addicted to selling millions of new automobiles each and every year in the USA and elsewhere.

I’m tempted to say this strategic misdiagnosis is knowing.  Yet Bush is a famous moron and Obama seems to have spent his entire adult life figuring out how to fuse himself with corporate interests and capitalist dogmas, so perhaps not.

Either way, though:  Being told oil, rather than cars, is “our” problem is like having your internist tell you you have a bad cough, when you actually have lung cancer.  The longer we deny the facts, the lower our odds of decent survival.

As always, Obama is a very major obstacle here, not any kind of change-bringer.  Indeed, it’s noteworthy that Obama’s purported diagnosis of the problem is actually weaker and more dishonest than Bush’s.  Bush “admitted” that oil, all oil, was the issue.  Obama says it’s merely “foreign oil.”

Ivan Illich on Bikes v. Cars

Take a look at what Illich had to say about the sanity of cars-first transportation, and you see why the CIA spied on him and tried to have him ex-communicated by Rome.

cyclist Ivan Illich was certainly one of history’s greatest Catholic priests, right up there with Bartolome de las Casas, Oscar Romero, and Gustavo Gutiérrez.  Take a look at what Illich had to say about the sanity of cars-first transportation, and you see why the CIA spied on him and tried to have him ex-communicated by Rome: [Footnote: Illich was still using sexist pronouns in 1978]

The model American devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it.

The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 per cent of their society’s time budget to traffic instead of 28 per cent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of life-time for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry.

The obvious alternative?

[A]bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well. The bicycle lifted man’s auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible.

Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems.

Who’d Have Guessed?

And what do the photos the peasants took anyway demonstrate? That the scale of the spill is now somewhere between 5 and 16 times larger than the government and BP admit.

Apparently, actual study reveals that “the leak from the broken undersea well [is] substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.”

captain renaultCaptain Renault, he of the automotive surname, is once again shocked, shocked to discover that while the government of the market-worshipping Barack Obama has been basing its estimates solely on the pathetic gesture of looking at satellite photos, British Petroleum, finalist for the now-postponed 2010 Safety Award for Excellence from the U.S. Interior Department’s Mineral Management Service, has been actively blocking scientists’ efforts to look under the water and see what’s there:

BP has resisted entreaties from scientists that they be allowed to use sophisticated instruments at the ocean floor that would give a far more accurate picture of how much oil is really gushing from the well.

The answer is no to that,” a BP spokesman, Tom Mueller, said on Saturday. “We’re not going to take any extra efforts now to calculate flow there at this point. It’s not relevant to the response effort, and it might even detract from the response effort.”

“The answer is no to that,” said Daddy to the toddlers, the Emperor to the miscreant peasants who wanted to photograph His Holiness’s Exalted Suit of Clothes.

And what do the photos the peasants took anyway demonstrate?  That the scale of the spill is now somewhere between 5 and 16 NINETEEN times larger than the government and BP admit:

Scientists studying video of the gushing oil well have tentatively calculated that it could be flowing at a rate of 25,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil a day. The latter figure would be 3.4 million gallons a day. But the government, working from satellite images of the ocean surface, has calculated a flow rate of only 5,000 barrels a day.

“There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes.

Par, absolute par for the course.

More From the Orwell Department

US annual expenditures on automobiles, gas, repair, parking, insurance, and roads: >$1 trillion

From Automotive News:

Chevy aimed to stick with its Americana theme through playing off the last line of the Pledge of Allegiance: “With liberty and justice for all,” one of the sources said.

US car crash deaths, 2009: 33,963

US annual expenditures on automobiles, gas, repair, parking, insurance, and roads: >$1 trillion (my calculations from government and insurance industry data, see Courting Carmageddon, my forthcoming book)

Total outstanding U.S. automotive loan debt: $1 trillion (sources: here minus here)

“I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”  Charles E. Wilson, GM President

Orwell Was an Amateur

BP, the company that owned the Louisiana oil rig that exploded last week, spent years battling federal regulators

henhouse The things that happen in market totalitarian America simply couldn’t be imagined by the greatest of dystopian fiction writers.

To wit:

The Interior Department’s Mineral Management Service has postponed a Monday safety awards luncheon at which a nominee for two awards was BP — which operated the oil rig that sank in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening an unprecedented environmental disaster along much of the nation’s Gulf Coast.

The awards ceremony recognizes “outstanding safety and pollution prevention performance by the offshore oil and gas industry.” BP was nominated for its work on the outer continental shelf.

The big winner of last year’s SAFE award was Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded last month under BP’s management. BP was also a finalist at the 2009 conference.

And this:

BP’s Awards Page

And, of course, this:

BP, the company that owned the Louisiana oil rig that exploded last week, spent years battling federal regulators over how many layers of safeguards would be needed to prevent a deepwater well from this type of accident.

One area of immediate concern, industry experts said, was the lack of a remote system that would have allowed workers to clamp shut Deepwater Horizon’s wellhead so it would not continue to gush oil. The rig is now spilling 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.

In a letter sent last year to the Department of the Interior, BP objected to what it called “extensive, prescriptive regulations” proposed in new rules to toughen safety standards. “We believe industry’s current safety and environmental statistics demonstrate that the voluntary programs…continue to be very successful.”

oil bird

This Guy is Smart?

As it is, though, Obama and the Democratic Party are huge obstacles to sanity and survival and the major social and technological changes on which they depend.

By now, it’s been abundantly revealed why our current president admires Ronald Reagan: affection for fairy tales.

To wit, this amazing piece of Reaganesque wishfulness in President Obama’s 2010 Earth Day speech:

obama fairy tale

Think about it: roughly a century and a half ago, in the late 1850s, the Seneca Oil Company hired an unemployed train conductor named Edwin Drake to investigate the oil springs of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Around this time, oil was literally bubbling up from the ground — but nobody knew what to do with it. It had limited economic value and often all it did was ruin crops or pollute drinking water.

Now, people were starting to refine oil for use as a fuel. Collecting oil remained time consuming, though, and it was back-breaking, and it was costly; it wasn’t efficient, as workers harvested what they could find in the shallow ground — they’d literally scoop it up. But Edwin Drake had a plan. He purchased a steam engine, and he built a derrick, and he began to drill.

And months passed. And progress was slow. The team managed to drill into the bedrock just a few feet each day. And crowds gathered and they mocked Mr. Drake. They thought him and the other diggers were foolish. The well that they were digging even earned the nickname, “Drake’s Folly.” But Drake wouldn’t give up. And he had an advantage: total desperation. It had to work. And then one day, it finally did.

One morning, the team returned to the creek to see crude oil rising up from beneath the surface. And soon, Drake’s well was producing what was then an astonishing amount of oil — perhaps 10, 20 barrels every day. And then speculators followed and they built similar rigs as far as the eye could see. In the next decade, the area would produce tens of millions of barrels of oil. And as the industry grew, so did the ingenuity of those who sought to profit from it, as competitors developed new techniques to drill and transport oil to drive down costs and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Now, our history is filled with such stories — stories of daring talent, of dedication to an idea even when the odds are great, of the unshakeable belief that in America, all things are possible.

The childishness and/or dishonesty in this story is, as the kids say, epic.

Petroleum is petroleum. As James Howard Kunstler explains this elementary point:

Oil is an amazing substance. It stores a tremendous amount of energy per weight and volume. It is easy to transport. It stores easily at regular temperature in unpressurized metal tanks, and it can sit there indefinitely without degrading. You can pump it through a pipe, you can send it all over the world in ships, you can haul it around in trains, cars, and trucks. You can even fly it in tanker planes and refuel other airplanes in flight. It is flammable but has proven to be safe to handle with a modest amount of care….It can be refined by straightforward distillation into many grades of fuel…and innumerable useful products….It has been cheap and plentiful.

Petroleum exists in the Earth’s crust in finite amounts. Thanks largely to overclass-imposed cars-first transportation policies, half of the planet’s supply is now, a mere 150 years after Titusville, gone, having been churned and burned into energy, heat, plastics, chemicals, and various forms of pollution.

But, instead of telling the truth about our energy situation and attacking the root of the problem, the supposedly smart change-agent-in-chief would have us believe that desperation (a mighty interesting analogy/admission, no?) and American-ness are somehow going to work their magic and not just rescue the present order, but bring it a new dawn.

If this weren’t a grave threat to my child and yours, I’d laugh and say “Good luck with that.” As it is, though, Obama and the Democratic Party are huge obstacles to sanity and survival and the major social and technological changes on which they depend.

The Free Market in Action

The lessons at hand are of no interest to Zerobama and everybody else in our bought and sold, election-by-dollars political system.

oil waves

Now questions are sure to be raised about a self-policing system that trusted a commercial operator to take care of its own mishap even as it grew into a menace imperiling Gulf Coast nature and livelihoods from Florida to Texas.

Will this be Obama’s Katrina? Should the federal and state governments have done more, and earlier? Did they learn the lessons of the devastating hurricane?

CBS News

Golly, I wonder…

We believe in capitalism; we believe in people getting rich.” — Barack Obama

ROFLMAO.  The lessons at hand are of no interest to Zerobama and everybody else in our bought and sold, election-by-dollars political system.

Parking: Private Pork

Even this peak “parking generation” number, however, is not enough for cars-first.

pigs trough Our overclass has done such a bang-up job demonizing public spending and public enterprise, nobody ever bothers to comment on the vast, ecocidal private-sector waste on which the corporate economy utterly relies.

The cardinal form of such waste is cars-first transportation, to which corporate shareholders are intractably addicted.

The lavishness and logic of the waste entailed can be appraised by these facts about the construction of parking spaces for automobiles, as reported by UCLA’s Donald Shoup:

Urban planners often ask questions about parking requirements. The Planning Advisory Service of the American Planning Association (1991, 1) reports that it “receives hundreds of requests each year about off-street parking requirements for different land uses–in fact, we receive more requests year after year on this topic than on any other.” Yet, to my knowledge, urban planning education offers students no instruction in how to set parking requirements.

Urban planning textbooks offer no help in learning to set parking requirements. Consider the four editions of Urban Land Use Planning by F. Stuart Chopin and his coauthors (Chapin 1957, 1965; Chopin and Kaiser 1979; Kaiser, Godschalk, and Chapin 1995). This distinguished text is considered the “bible” of urban land use planning, yet no edition mentions parking requirements.

What possible explanation could there be for this, other than that the system needs to make sure that business requirements always and everywhere easily trump engineering calculations?

Meanwhile, here is the method deployed in actual construction practice:

The only source of data that systematically relates parking demand to land use is Parking Generation, published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.  The ITE (1987) reports the “parking generation rate” for 64 different land uses, from airports to warehouses.  The parking generation rate for each land use is defined as the average peak parking demand observed in case studies…. The objective of the survey is to count the number of vehicles parked at the time of peak parking demand.

Even this peak “parking generation” number, however, is not enough for cars-first:

Planners often set minimum parking requirements higher than the ITE parking generation rates. For example, a survey of 33 cities in nine southeastern states found that parking requirements averaged 3.7 spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space, or 32 percent higher than the ITE parking generation rate of 2.79 spaces per 1,000 square feet (Polanis and Price 1991, 32). Similarly, a survey of 117 cities in California found that parking requirements averaged 3.8 spaces per 1,000 square feet of office space, or 36 percent higher than the ITE parking generation rate (Shoup 1995, 18).

The generous parking capacity required by planners often goes unused. Studying office buildings in ten California cities, Richard Willson (1995) found that the peak parking demand averaged only 56 percent of capacity. Gruen Associates (1986) found that peak parking demand at nine suburban office parks near Philadelphia and San Francisco averaged only 47 percent of capacity, and that no office park had a peak parking demand greater than 60 percent of capacity. The Urban Land Institute (1982, 12) found that the recommended parking requirements for shopping centers provide a surplus of parking spaces for all but nineteen hours a year, and leave at least half of all spaces vacant for more than 40 percent of the time a shopping center is open for business.