Fake News

blind men touching elephant image The New York Times today features a front-page story suggesting that the oil industry is the main source of the Trump Administration’s suspension of pending rules requiring faster improvement of automotive fuel-economy standards. According to Times reporter Hiroko Tabuchi, “it turns out that there was a hidden beneficiary of the plan that was pushing for the changes all along: the nation’s oil industry.”

This is rotten-appleism/liberal practicality/craven punch-pulling, mixed with patent hogwash.

Let’s start with the obvious unreality.

First, in Tabuchi’s telling, the oil industry was, at some time, a hidden opponent of rules reducing its own sales? ROFL. Pure balderdash.

It is also simply bad history to suggest that the idea of halting Obama’s CAFE rules originated with the petroleum corporations. The Trump Campaign was obviously planning such a move all along. And, contrary to Tabuchi’s claim that “[c]armakers, for their part, had sought more flexibility in meeting the original 2025 standards, not a categorical rollback,” the auto corporations have been every bit as early and eager as the oilmongers in their entirely welcome lobbying on this issue. They may have framed their wishes with a more careful eye to their public perception, but it is naive in the extreme to therefore make these dedicated devils look like angels in this string of pathetic events.

Which point brings us to the NYT‘s rotten-appleism: The oil industry is not the relevant villain in our shamefully under- and mis-discussed cars-and-energy crisis. The oil industry is huge and important and partially independent, but it is nonetheless a squarely subordinate part of the automotive-industrial complex, which is itself a deeply logical, probably indispensable component of corporate capitalism. To miss this institutional fact is to do damage to the possibility of its decent resolution, by passing off a mere symptom as the disease we need to cure.

As much as liberals and greens want it to be true, we aren’t going to sweet-talk or band-aid our way through our coming storms. Self-delusion will not cut the mustard.

Brainwashing on Facebook

You want a real case of Facebook knowingly selling space to evil mind-controllers? Here is a straight-up FB lie from your friends at ExxonMobil:

algae ad image

There is a zero percent chance that algae or any other bio-fuel is going to replace current petroleum use. No entity in the world knows this more surely than does the ExxonMobil corporation. Yet, this is what it wants you to think it believes.

None of this, of course, should lend aid and comfort to the liberal-green delusion that the fossil fuel corporations are our main problem. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Our actual problem, however, is bigger and deeper: cars-first transportation and other key forms of unending commodity-maximization.

Corporate capitalism, in other words.

The Haloware Thesis

Long-time readers will know that DbC contends that so-called “electric vehicles” are, in both design and effect, haloware — loss-leader products promulgated by the sellers of pickups and SUVs as a way of staving off democratic contemplation of the suicidal idiocy of using automobiles for everyday locomotion.

The proof is in the pudding here. As Zeke Hausfather reports:

Despite record sales of electric vehicle in the US – the total number just hit the 1m mark – there are nearly 12m more cars with internal combustion engines in the country than there were in 2008.

This, of course, is exactly the intended pattern. A tenth of the population drives around flattering itself for its Tesla or Leaf, while the rest keep buying trucks.

And this is just the half of it, since “EVs” are actually 80% natural gas, coal, and nuclear cars.

Sing it UB40

The Yellow Vests in France

yellow jacket tax protester Many have been wondering what’s up avec des gilets jaunes.

DbT‘s editor is the farthest thing from an expert on French society, and has not set foot on French soil since 1987.

Nevertheless, since the automobile and its French accoutrements play such a central role in the thing, DbT hereby offers its official guess:

The Yellow Jacket movement is a rightist version of #Occupy.

Marine Le Pen is a big fan of the phenomenon, and is trying to ride its energy into new elections.

Meanwhile, the thing, like #Occupy, has neither leaders nor a coherent agenda, and is fueled by Twitter storms and pose-striking. Hence, it won’t last, and will have little effect.

None of which is to excuse Macron, who is a yuppie dunce bent on repackaging dangerous (witness the neo-fascist tendencies afoot) Reaganite dogmas.

Trying to sustain an automobile-centered way of life, however, is a losing gambit, in any form. Capitalism’s #1 machine is simply unsustainable under the given laws of physics, which are rather strict.

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.