Lexus on the Moon

For reasons that ought to be obvious, flying cars are an even dumber idea than rolling cars. But the trope, which dates back to at least 1927, continues, even at this seemingly very late date. The suggestion that automobiles are futuristic, rather than sociopathic, ecocidal, and outdated, is simply too tempting to pass up.

The latest trend is to roll the “flying cars” trope up into space, in fact.

Here is Lexus trying its hand:

This stuff will horrify our grandchildren, if we manage to bequeath them a world still capable of sustaining literacy and the study of history.

Ah, the Good Old Death-Threat

In the United States, threatening children’s lives has long been a tactic for selling the product that has long been the #1 killer of children and young adults in the United States.

The shameless and ghoulish tradition continues, thanks to your friends and mine at the General Motors corporation:

“Buy a Chevy Equinox or your kids will die,” in other words.

Only in America, as they say.

The Haloware Hypothesis: Latest Evidence

DbC has long argued that “electric vehicles” are haloware – a product that exists to distract attention from continuing SUV and pickup sales.

If this thesis is correct, then it is a huge mistake for progressive forces to express enthusiasm for it.

So, what is the evidence at this point?

In 2018, about 86 million new passenger and light commercial automobiles were sold on planet Earth.

In 2018, about 1.2 million — about 1.4% — of those new vehicles were powered by battery-only electric engines.

In 2018, about 37 million new pickups and SUVs were sold on planet Earth. This was roughly 43% of total worldwide new-car sales.

A decade ago, global SUV sales were far lower than they now are.

As Automotive Age reports:

There are now more than 200 million SUVs around the world, up from about 35 million in 2010, accounting for 60 percent of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010, IEA data shows.

As a result, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010 after the power sector — ahead of heavy industry including iron and steel, cement, aluminum, as well as trucks and aviation, it said.

The standard EV apology is the claim that battery-powered vehicles are merely in their early days, and are about to explode into conquering the roads.

Leaving aside the question of whether this eventuality would be a good thing, this claim is starting to get a bit stale, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, the facts are there:

In the year 2018, for every one new battery-electric vehicle on the world’s roads, there were 30 new SUVs/pickups.

(Junk) Food for Thought

If you are seeking something to think about, ask yourself: Which is more played-out at this point: automobiles or the Star Wars franchise?

The answer, of course, is automobiles, but DbC would nonetheless point out the laughable tie-in between the hateful ecocidal operation that is Porsche A.G. and the omnipresent, increasingly incoherent mess of a Disney marketing platform.

The idea that ongoing interstellar travel might be possible from any planet that has yet to transcend war and entrenched inequality is odious and childish enough. To suggest that an objectively crappy $185,000 car has anything positive to do with such a future — to say nothing of genuinely advanced technology — is simply a symptom of our continuing drunken adolescence as a species.

Gaps, Indeed

The United Nations today issued a report on “the emissions gap,” meaning the difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” to meet the probably too-weak 2015 Paris Agreement goals on world greenhouse gas emissions. The gap is big, says the U.N., and the situation “bleak.”

There is, however, a rather glaring gap within the U.N.’s own analysis and reportage: its remarkable softness-of-head when it comes to the technology that is now the leading source of GHG emissions in the society that remains Earth’s clear per-capita leader in GHG emissions.

U.N. Emissions Gap Report 2019

That technology is, of course, the automobile.

Without counting either a) heavy trucks and buses or b) all the secondary activity and material that exists or is swollen because of the automobile’s importance in the United States and elsewhere, cars, according this report itself, “contributed around 14 per cent or 7.5 GtCO2e to global GHG emissions,” as of 2018.

What is to be done, according to the Gap report’s authors, about this major GHG source?

For the United States, on the topic of transportation, it is just this:

Strengthen vehicle and fuel economy standards to be in line with zero emissions for new cars in 2030

Zero-emission automobiles, of course, do not and cannot ever exist.

All automobiles require fuel, and even solar panels, wind turbines, hydro-electric dams, and nuclear power plants produce GHG emissions in their construction and maintenance. The emissions, in these minor examples as well as in the coal and natural gas plants that are the major sources of “EV” power, merely occur at locations other than a tailpipe. But occur they most certainly still do, despite automakers’ labels suggesting otherwise. Shame on the United Nations for missing and obscuring this crucial fact.

Meanwhile, there’s also not a single word in this report about reversing cars’ centrality in transportation and urban design. Nor is there a word about the foolhardiness of relying on automobiles as a primary way of accomplishing everyday locomotion.

There is some major juju behind the continuing taboo against straight talk about cars. If we survive to tell the tale, this sponsored unknowing will likely be judged as one of human history’s greatest ideological blindnesses. First, though, it may be the death of us.

Automobiles and the Drake Equation

Earth as dot in space

As Carl Sagan once explained, the odds for the existence, out there in the cosmos, of intelligent life-forms we might someday meet or talk to can be guesstimated using the so-called Drake Equation.

Ironically, at least in Sagan’s view, the main determinant of whether there are probably millions of existing advanced extraterrestrial civilizations or few-to-none “comes down to economics and politics and what, on Earth, we call human nature.”

On those planets that yielded intelligent life and complex civilizations, did the smart beings we might someday encounter manage to avoid destroying themselves, in the heady and naive early days of their sciences, with their own clever inventions?

Such self-destruction might be, Sagan observed, “the overwhelmingly preponderant fate of galactic civilizations.” And our own collective life-course could certainly not yet be taken as evidence against this thesis:

“And it is hardly out of the question that we might destroy ourselves tomorrow.”

Carl Sagan, Cosmos, pp. 318-319

TCT holds that one of the cardinal technologies that seems quite likely to embody the kind of deadly species adolescence that worried Sagan is the supposed freedom machine we call the automobile.

Barring the invention of a truly sustainable technology for turning sunlight into electricity or liquid fuels on the needed scale, the idea that every individual commuter ought to maintain for their own personal use a complex and fragile two-ton machine has certainly always been a rather wild gamble with the universal laws of physics.

And yet, led along by our capitalists, we have — especially in this, the world’s dominant society — watched this wager be built into the very stuff of our social, economic, and geographical affairs. If we are ever to retract this living bet, it will cost us very dearly, as it will require a thorough-going reconstruction of our spaces and places, as well as our social relationships.

As of 2019, it is not looking hopeful for such a sober move. The topic of cars’ centrality in American life still goes, as the would-be radicals dwell on symptoms and the car ads roll merrily on, all but unmentioned.

More Than Half the Story…

Almost invariably, even lefties who worry about cars-first transportation fall into talking about the “love affair with the automobile” that supposedly grips the great American masses.

One problem with this habit is that it ignores all the ways in which popular affection for cars is limited, contradicted, and unevenly distributed.

The other massive problem with the love affair trope is that it — sometimes rather blatantly — diverts attention from what I call the shove affair story.

The corporate economy that dominates our lives exists to serve the interests of its primary beneficiaries, the elite households holding large tranches of claims on corporations’ net cash flows. Both these households and the big business economy that fuels their privilege are literally addicted to the continued existence of cars-first transportation in the United States, come Hell or high water.

As a result of this institutional addiction, at no time in automotive-epoch American history has basic transportation policy been permitted to become a major topic in a national election. Cars-first outcomes are simply too important to TPTB to be put at any risk of discontinuation.

Astoundingly, to date, nobody has ever told the shove affair story in anything approaching a proper form. In his great, flawed, now out-of-print classic, Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader promised, but failed, to do so. American sociology, a natural home to such a thing, has never mentioned the topic, which exists in a different universe than the abstracted empiricist one that, C. Wright Mills notwithstanding, long ago swallowed that discipline. Marxists, meanwhile, have remained too self-stultified to get there, as the overclass automotive shove affair has little to do with falling rates of profit or class boundaries, whatever those are.

Speaking of meanwhile, the time is beyond ripe…

Stay tuned.