Shove Affair: More Data

Since at least the early 1960s, quasi-official doctrine has insisted that “Americans are having a love affair with the automobile” is all anybody needs to know about the making and meaning of transportation in the United States.

The barely disguised purpose of this longstanding hypothesis is to squelch consideration of how and why it is actually our business class, not our great masses, that has the intractable romance with cars and trucks.

DbC mentions this because, if you bother to look into the facts, the evidence is quite overwhelming: Democractic preference has a rather different relationship to U.S. transportation outcomes than love affair dogma would have you presume.

Consider this graphic showing results obtained by Transportation for America and other groups in a November 2019 survey of 1,029 U.S. voters:

Let’s spell out what this shows about the actual transportation preferences of ordinary Americans, shall we?

Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Americans want policy to focus on fixing existing roads and adding capacity to public transit.

Seventy-two percent (72%) of Americans want to fix existing roads before building new ones.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Americans want to require states to ecologically justify any new roads.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of Americans want there to be a ten-year moratorium on the construction of new automotive roads.

Two points:

  1. This is all without any sort of political leadership, so is pretty close to actual spontaneous public preference.
  2. This is mighty peculiar stuff, if you think there’s a popular love affair with automobiles…seems like somebody might want a divorce?

McKibbenism 2021

Bill McKibben, in today’s New York Times, says the suspension of the Keystone XL Pipeline project is a victory.

One might ask how so and why.

Take heart! McKibben explains:

The apparent cancellation was, he says, a harbinger suggesting that “much of the rest of the elaborate architecture of fossil fuel expansion begins to topple.”

That, friends, is quite a string of weasel-words. “Much of.” “Architecture of.” “Expansion.” “Begins.”

Meanwhile, here are the actual tar sands production data through 2019:

Despite Covid, 2020 production set yet another record, by the way.

So, the straight dope is that the whole Keystone XL protest gesture did not keep a tablespoon of tar sands in the ground. And the expansion of fossil fuel use continues very much apace.

[By the way, a point-of-information for the kiddies: This fuel gets put onto railroad cars when gesturers block pipelines.]

The only two ways to change fossil fuel use are 1) business-as-usual/eco-social collapse or 2) radical alteration of the structure of everyday life — not just the mode of fuel deliveries — in our modern, corporate capitalist order.

The hour for McKibbenite posing is getting very, very late.

Electric Dinosaur

6,500.

That is the curb weight, in pounds, of the standard (not upgraded) forthcoming “electric” version of the Ford F150 pickup truck.

If you remember your Physics 101, you know that F = m*a. Force-of-impact equals mass times acceleration, that is.

Mass being what we non-physicists call “weight,” what this means is that this supposedly wondrous new vehicle — the “electric” version of what has long been the best-selling automobile model in the United States — will now be roughly 2,000 pounds heavier than the current gasoline-based F150.

In other words, when this thing crashes into an old-school (pre-SUV-diktat) “car,” it will be carrying an additional 2/3 of such a “car” into the collision. When it hits a pedestrian or bicyclist, well…

That Old Saying

Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.

One major sub-clause in this Douglassian sociological rule is the reality that, for some people, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

Include in that group the International Energy Agency (a sub-unit of the OECD). Here is their new chart of one major feature their vision of a sustainable future:

AEI/OECD Graphic from May 2021

What this graphic depicts is a world where all new cars sold in the world 8 years from now will be powered by electric engines.

DbC is tempted to accept large wagers from folks out there who think this stands a snowball’s chance in Hades of coming true.

The larger point, of course, is whether a world premised on selling 60 million new automobiles every year can ever be sustainable. Electric cars are not composed of pixie dust. Electricity is not magic generated by human will-power. Cars-first transportation also requires geographic sprawl and a vast, elaborate material infrastructure.

Here at DbC, one of our pet hypotheses is the claim that EVs are a capitalist Trojan Horse, an effort to stave off discussion of what green living would really look like. Thus, the sooner we start to oppose EVs, the better.

Our Point

walnut photo

This is the basic hypothesis of Death by Car: Automobiles are the lifeblood of corporate capitalism. Without them, the system implodes, due to demand shrinkage (aka efficiency). Hence, they have been and are *dictated* to us, no choices or even coherent discussion allowed.

The Gateskeeper

photo of Bill Gates

Bill Gates isn’t stupid. But he also isn’t nearly smart enough to transcend money’s delusionary effects. He obviously thinks he’s not only entitled to his enormous voice, but that this voice is not far from being science incarnate. It isn’t. Predictably, it contains huge swaths of unexamined class bias.

Consider what Gates just said to the ongoing Leaders Summit on Climate:

[U]sing today’s technology, it will be virtually impossible to meet our goals. The reason is that nearly all of today’s zero-carbon technologies are more expensive than their fossil-fuel counterparts. To provide all the benefits of the modern lifestyle to people around the world, we need new zero-carbon products that are just as affordable—that have what I call a Green Premium of zero.

Bill Gates, April 23, 2021

Gates forgets to mention that some of today’s technologies can’t possibly become zero-carbon products, and that this impossibility, in fact, applies to “today’s” #1 technology — the automobile.

It will never be the case that having each household achieve its everyday intra-urban locomotion by owning and storing one or more 3,000-pound piles of complex industrial parts will come close to being ecologically sustainable. It is also true that we have already built out American society to compel such an effort. So, any green future is going to require a radical reconstruction of our towns and cities, to de-emphasize automobile use.

Yet and still, Bill Gates is a major peddler of the idea that all we have to do is electrify cars, and all will be well.

Indeed, he finds the very idea of doing anything else to be absurd. Here’s what he says in his magnum opus on the human future:

Imagine if everyone had gotten together one day and said, “Hey, cars are killing people. They’re dangerous. Let’s stop driving and give up these automobiles.” That would’ve been ridiculous, of course.

Bill Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, p. 117

Yes, how ridiculous!

Even when posing to the contrary, it seem capitalists really are pretty damned heedless, as somebody famous once argued. Or as somebody else said, it’s damned hard to get a person to think clearly when it involves her/his wallet.

EV Means ESUV

According to Automotive News, this is a photo of Toyota’s forthcoming first-in-brand bZ4X “electric” vehicle:

photo of car

Small cars, as we know, mean small profits. So, as we approach the coming wave of EV subsidies, let’s watch, shall we? It’ll be chock full of such gigantisms, for the usual reasons.

This is yet another reason to oppose all the cheerleader bullcrap surrounding these planet-killing loss-leaders.