Museum of Impending Carmageddon: Piece #1

Here at DbC, it strikes us that one of things we ought to be doing is recording the basic facts of our careening epoch’s continuing promotion of the product that is speeding the nation* and the species toward Carmageddon. It is a remarkable record of overclass heedlessness and institutional inertia. The thesis behind all posts in this series is that our grandchildren, should we somehow manage to leave them the ability to learn history and sociology, will be be appalled that we sat by and took this.

Without further ado:

The first item in the DbC M.I.C. is this utterly shameful** and 100 percent diversionary advertisement from the (very recently bailed-out) Ford Motor Company, whose founder, prior to incorporating his enterprise, gushed to his brother-in-law that “there is a barrel of money in this business.” A transcript follows the video.

“You don’t become a hundred-and-seventeen-year-old auto maker in this country by refusing to change. The Ford Motor Company does not resist, deny, or ignore change. We pledge to make our most iconic vehicles electric, to use 100 percent renewable energy across all global manufacturing plants by 2035, to stand for lower greenhouse gas emissions, to stand with Americans and for the planet.” [emphasis original]

DbC transcription of Ford “Built for America: Change” television ad, aired fall 2020 in USA

Every claim in this stunningly petulant, meticulously planned assault on the public mind begs for its own corrective seminar.

For now, suffice it to note that this is an advertisement for automobiles in the year 2020. These people know what they’re doing, even if they won’t allow anybody but themselves to discuss the topic.

*To be clear, “nation” is a very dangerous idea.

**Special shame on actor Bryan Cranston, who, despite his fame and wealth, chooses to do the voiceover work on these sociopathic propaganda pieces. Mr. Cranston is certainly now a major candidate for the much-uncoveted Golden Hickie Award.

Still At It

royalty graphic

In 1953, at a closed-door Congressional confirmation hearing, GM President Charles Wilson acknowledged his habitual equation of his employer’s profit-making endeavors with the overall welfare of the society in which it was based. Asked if he could even imagine a conflict between these two phenomena, Wilson, via a leaked transcript, infamously admitted he did not and could not:

I cannot conceive of one because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country. Our contribution to the Nation is quite considerable.

Wilson’s shift of tenses reveals that, even among cronies, he knew there was something troubling in the equation. Yet he did shift squarely back to the present tense in his final sentence: We are big, so you will take what you get.

Despite the smoldering times, this elite equation of car corporations with the national interest has not altered one iota since 1953.

Here, indeed, is what new Ford CEO Jim Farley unashamedly told Automotive News today:

We have an important job to do not only for Ford but for our country and for the Ford family.

You see? Ford = Ford family (major stockholders) = United States.

So, as always, run that up your flagpole, folks.

Hydrogen Cars

Ever wonder why automobiles aren’t running on hydrogen fuel cells?

The answer is complex and also part of the long skein of sponsored fantasies about flying cars and, now, tunneling cars.

But the most important reason was explained recently by Richard Truett in Automotive News:

There is one part of the fuel cell that no automaker company ever talks about: high-volume production. That’s because most of the fuel cells built for automobiles today are hand-made by technicians.

photo of fuel cell technician

As of 2018, Toyota was building about seven Mirai fuel cell vehicles per day, all by hand.

The news Tuesday of General Motors’ deal with startup truckmaker Nikola provided no details about the technology GM plans to embrace to crank out fuel cell stacks quickly and with zero defects. The stack, you will recall, contains membranes and thin metal plates, and much like the cells in a battery pack, the more the cells are stacked in a fuel cell, the more electricity it will produce.

In manufacturing terms, this is as close to brain surgery as we’ve ever seen in a powertrain component. Not only is there no room for manufacturing tolerances — every internal component must fit and align perfectly for the cell to produce the correct amount of electricity safely — but the production site has to be free of dust, dirt and anything else that could contaminate a fuel cell membrane.

It is going to take a huge and economically viable fuel cell to produce enough electricity to move a fully loaded Nikola semitruck down the road at highway speeds. It won’t be economically efficient to assemble the stacks in these trucks by hand.

Automotive News, September 08, 2020

This, of course, also raises the question of what happens to fuel cell arrays in automotive collisions. The elementary facts there can’t be good, either.

You aren’t going to be seeing these things any time soon.

“That Doesn’t Just Happen”

The quasi-official explanation for the existence of cars-first transportation in the United States is an extension of American Exceptionalism: “Americans are having a love affair with the automobile,” it is said, is all there is to know about the making and meaning of mobility in this, the best of all possible societies.

Now, one important sub-axiom of love affair doctrine is the presumption that capitalists, being mere order-takers, have played no independent part in the extraordinary, continuing paving of the continent. “What would you folks like,” our heroic Henry Fords are said to always ask. “Oh, cars…hmm. Cars, you say? Oh, yes,…cars, cars, of course! — excuse us, we hadn’t thought of that. Tell us more, so we can give you what you desire!”

This would surely still be the main explanation an organization such as the Ford Motor Company would give, if any public servant were ever so brazen as to inquire into the insane trend toward escalating manufacture and sale of pickup trucks.

Why is this suicidal thing happening, oh dearest Ford? “Well, it’s what the people demand!,” you can hear them say.

Consider, then, this image, which shows an advertisement Ford Motor is now running in the trade magazine Automotive Age:

Ford ad

You could spend hours decoding the few dozen words in this one. But, still, consider the plain meaning of the first two sentences:

F-Series trucks have been America’s best-selling truck for 43 years running. That doesn’t just happen.

No, indeed. It does not.

Liquid Fuels of the Future!

Joe Biden has announced his climate plan!

As anybody who understands power in the USA would’ve predicted, it is actually a plan to perpetuate, rather than move away from, the catastrophic-but-profit-gushing reign of our #1 GHG emitter: automobiles.

If you doubt this, consider this multiply revealing plank of the plan:

Doubling down on the liquid fuels of the future, which make agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change. Advanced biofuels are now closer than ever as we begin to build the first plants for biofuels, creating jobs and new solutions to reduce emissions in planes, ocean-going vessels, and more.

Yes, “and more.”

This is just a complete and absolute whopper, as well as a dead give-away that the other stuff in the plan about requiring “electric” cars and trucks is also prevarication. If we’re going all-EV, Joe, why do we need a bunch of “new” liquid fuels?

“Alternative” liquid fuels, of course, are also less, not more, green than gasoline, notwithstanding the slick propanda campaigns of Exxon Mobil and its corporate cousins, which are apparently about to pay their dividends, by greasing this particular rail.

The assertion that “advanced biofuels are now closer than ever” is simply a straight, unadorned lie. Whoever wrote that line has a very large karma problem coming.

Cracks in the Ice

image of cracked glacier

None other than The New York Times is now running pieces calling cars “death machines,” with references to evidence supporting that long-suppressed point. This is a genuinely new and good thing.

One of the many important facts explained by Farhad Manjoo, the piece’s author, pertains to just how deeply we’re down in this thing.

Despite the quasi-famous effort of Robert Moses to help bankers find ways to reinvest their clients’ surplus wealth* by adding automotive facilities to it, New York City remains, by far, our nation’s least car-dominated major metro area, with predictably good, if counterintuitive, implications for its comparative green-ness.

But, the comparative basis is still very much comparative, after all. As Manjoo explains, even Manhattan is wildly, crazily give over to automobiles:

In addition to the 2,450 acres of roadway in Manhattan, nearly 1,000 more acres — an area about the size of Central Park — is occupied by parking garages, gas stations, carwashes, car dealerships and auto repair shops. There is three times more roadway for cars on Manhattan as there is for bikes. There’s more road for cars than there is sidewalks for pedestrians.

And this holds, despite the fact that less than half of Manhattan’s households own a car!

Something is very rotten in this not-Denmark of ours, and the reality is starting to reek badly enough for it to be catching a few new nostrils, at very long last.

_______

*From Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, p. 730:

Jack Madigan, who had spent weeks trying to peddle Henry Hudson Bridge bonds around Wall Street in 1936, was astonished when previously aloof bankers began inviting him to lunch in their private dining rooms in 1946 — until one, Stewart Becker, president of the Bank of Manhattan, casually remarked over dessert, “You know, Jack, we’ve got more money than good uses for it.” Then he [Madigan] understood. Returning from Becker’s table, he told Moses that the banker was asking to be allowed to buy as much as possible of the next Triborough bond issue — and the bartender’s son [Madigan] added that he would never have to go hat in band to bankers again; from now on, bankers would come to him.