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 The suggestion that automobiles are futuristic, rather than sociopathic, ecocidal, and outdated, is simply too tempting to pass up.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It figures that the inevitable catastrophic idea has arrived under the fetid banner of the dishonorable Senator Charles E. Schumer. Here it is, as just announced in The New York Times:
I am announcing a new proposal designed to rapidly phase out gas-powered vehicles and replace them with zero-emission, or “clean,” vehicles like electric cars. The goal of the plan, which also aims to spur a transformation in American manufacturing, is that by 2040 all vehicles on the road should be clean.
Given that the United States is the flagship and proving ground of corporate capitalism — the veritable paradise for aspiring rentiers — cars-first transportation has always been imposed by fiat here. That has always been because nothing else can or could have sustained the Big Business system, which is institutionally addicted to massive and unending socio-economic waste.
More importantly for us now, nothing other than cars-first transportation can be discussed here in this money-makers’ Nirvana, because the waste must go on, come Hell or high water, if the cash is to continue to flow uphill.
Schumer explains, backhandedly, the continuity he and his sponsors seek, despite the times:
Critics have long said that bold action on climate change would cost America money and jobs. This is not true. My plan is estimated to create tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs in this country and should re-establish the United States as the world leader in auto manufacturing. Much as America experienced a revolution in auto manufacturing at the outset of the 20th century, America under this plan should experience a revolution in clean auto manufacturing at the beginning of this century.
See? The 21st century will be just like the 20th! Only it will be “electric.”
The unmentionable problem, of course, is that relying on a quarter-billion personally-owned, independently steered 3,000-pound machines as the main way of accomplishing everyday intra- and inter-urban locomotion is, whatever the fuel source, a patently suicidal idea.
Oh, and by the way, Schumer is proposing to spend $45 billion a year to subsidize the sale of new EVs, in order to get something like 1/4 of the total US vehicle fleet (“63 million fewer gas-powered cars on the road by 2030”) to be “electric.” Total US spending on all public transportation everywhere is now barely more that this sum.