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?

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.

Gestures Will Get Us Nowhere

strike-a-pose New York City is making the McKibbenite gesture of no longer receiving any of the profits from corporate production of fossil fuels. To what effect? More money for other cities and capitalists, and not much else, on one side. On the other, something truly harmful — perpetuation of self-satisfaction and delusion among the very people who ought to be pushing for ecological reconstruction of our towns and our society.

Anton Davis explains the point well on today’s CounterPunch:

Divestment [from fossil fuels corporations]…is the equivalent of the patient being told diet and exercise can cure their late stage cancer. The patient must be given a clear diagnosis and asked if they wish to undertake the treatment which will save them. The survival of the planet will then be for its inhabitants to decide.

DbC isn’t sure if divestment is even that strong a medicine, actually, though Davis’s point is a good one. How does divesting from massively internally profitable businesses do anything to hurt those businesses? It’s not like Exxon is or soon will be a money-losing operation.

Call us here at DbC when NYC says it is going to ban automobiles and advocate nationalization of energy corporations. Until then, here’s hoping Houstonites enjoy the cash New Yorkers won’t be getting as they continue to smugly skirt the topic of cars-first transportation…

Automotive Propaganda

“Americans are having a love affair with the automobile” has long been the quasi-official explanation for why, here in America, we never discuss our suicidal, waste-maximizing way of arranging everyday locomotive. Problem though: If this thesis were accurate, would the phrase itself not be quite old vis-a-vis the ascendance of the automobile itself? It isn’t:

McKibben Still Has No Clue

windmill-tilt Bill McKibben, never one to think too hard about his own limitations, still says “the source of the problem” is “the fossil fuel industry and its lock on Washington.” That’s like saying the problem in Greensboro in 1960 was the cheeseburgers.

The fossil fuel industry, for starters, is largely the oil industry, which is a subsidiary component of the automotive-industrial complex. That, the promoter of one of corporate capitalism’s few true core commodities — the private automobile — is, in turn, a literal institutional requirement of corporate capitalism. Corporate capitalism, which requires the reign of the car plus its half-dozen other major industrial complexes/capital-friendly-forms-of-colossal-ecocidal-waste-in-which-fossil-fuel-combustion-is-but-a-symptom, is the source of the problem.

Anybody who can’t or won’t say that is no friend of the dwindling prospect of progressive human survival. “Green car” is a screamingly obvious oxymoron. Yet, the entire anti-fossil-fuels movement is premised on at least implying the contrary.

History suggests that social movements face enough obstacles. There is simply no room for adding in the fatal error of being coy and/or deluded about what we need and demand.

What’s In a Word

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Orwellianly-named (ponder the concept: “highway safety”) federal agency in charge of making sure the inherently dangerous, planet-killing technology known as the automobile keeps a viable public image, “car crashes are one of the leading killers of U.S. children age 1 to 13.” That’s the audio product. When it comes time to put the story in print, the NHTSA writes: “Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old.” [emphasis added in both quotes]

In reality, of course, car crashes are the clear, no-contest #1 killer of U.S. children, even for those aged 1-13, who are not yet old enough to drive.

Why does the NHTSA pull its punches in this blatant manner? Can anybody think of a reason? Could it be that perpetuating cars-first transportation is “one of” the sociopathic behaviors our corporate overclass can’t live without?

NYT Throws Broder Under the Tesla

corpnews As any experience with the MSM confirms in spades, automobiles, despite the times, remain the #1 source of advertising revenue. They are also the keystone commodity in the overall operation of corporate capitalism. Hence, is it any surprise the The New York Times has publicly scolded John M. Broder for daring to do an actual report, rather than a standard MSM advertorial “car review” — on the experience of using a $74,200 “electric” car?

As DbC noted in our last post, Broder took delivery of his Tesla S and used it to see if Tesla had indeed fulfilled its promise of creating an infrastructure that would facilitate “a speedy electric-car road trip between here [Washington D.C.] and Boston.” As Broder reported, this promise remains a huge lie. The actual trip required long waits for charges and repeatedly refraining from normal use of the car.

Readers can read the charges and answers for themselves. The main digs against Broder are 1) that he failed to leave his test car plugged in overnight, and 2) that he didn’t stay around for a full charge (which would have taken several hours) on an emergency charging stop imposed by the lack of charge after a cold, unplugged overnight stay in Groton, Connecticut.

Of course, Broder’s mission was to test the Tesla promise of easy travel based on its East Coast “Supercharger” stations, not to see if his trip was possible by any means whatsoever, or with a dozen footnotes.

After getting flak from Tesla “Chairman, Product Architect & CEO” Elon Musk, in the form of special pleading and attempts to change Broder’s question, here is the final verdict of The TimesFlak Catcher Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan:

Did he [Broder] use good judgment along the way? Not especially.

Wow! That is not a small rebuke in such a form from such a boss in such a trade. One hopes Mr. Broder knows some good employment lawyers…

Meanwhile, Sullivan’s weighing of this issue confirms, once again, the importance of the filters that operate in MSM journalism. In explaining her attack on Broder, Sullivan admits the special lengths to which she felt compelled to go on on one particular side of this question:

I’ve also had a number of talks with my brother, a physician, car aficionado and Tesla fan, who has helped me balance what might have been a tendency to unconsciously side with a seasoned and respected journalist – my own “confirmation bias.”

Funny, that: Her self-described “bias” is to trust a seasoned and respected journalist. Her professional, deeeply considered “corrective” is to give great weight to an over-privileged pro-car, pro-Tesla ideologue!

One might wonder how many anti-car activists Ms. Sullivan drew into her consideration here…

“Safety Issues”

grind

In a statement, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland stressed vigilance: “Even as we celebrate [yes, he said “celebrate”] the progress we’ve made in recent years, we must remain focused on addressing the safety issues that are continuing to claim more than 30,000 lives each year.”

“The safety issues” of which Administrator Strickland speaks? “Those” would be the automobile itself, would “they” not?

As for “the progress we’ve made in recent years,” that is otherwise known as the Great Recession.

Look for a huge spike in U.S. traffic deaths in 2012. Should be another lesson in Big Brotherism when they make that jump official.

Not Like Cigarettes?

ratcig This past week, Ford Motor Company scion Bill Ford hosted a dinner “for a small group of journalists at the Detroit auto show.”  The purpose?  To burnish Ford’s green claims, of course.

Highlights [via Automotive News]:

Ford has been thinking about “how we’re going to have mobility in a world of urbanization and 75 percent of the world’s population living in cities. We’re going to have 4 billion cars and 9 billion people by midcentury.

There are currently just over 1 billion automobiles, counting cars, trucks, and buses, on the planet, btw.

So, ROFL on that one.

Meanwhile, Bill Ford also told the assembled reporters that cars-first transportation isn’t like selling nicotine:

“I never wanted us to be like the tobacco [companies], where our employees would have to apologize to their family and friends for working there. If that happens, we are not going to get the best and brightest.”

It’s an interesting contrast, isn’t it? If Ford’s products are freedom vehicles and wonder machines, why this apparent slip into cigarette talk?

Perhaps it’s because Ford knows the numbers are rather comparably large and the deaths equally stupid. In the USA, lung cancer now kills about 160,000 people a year. If one assumes that tailpipe exhaust accounts for 25% percent of air pollution deaths and auto use accounts for 10% of deconditioning deaths, cars snuff out about half that amount every year.

And, of course, the era of war over access to tobacco-friendly climes has passed. Now, if there is to be a World War III, does anybody doubt it will instead have rather more to do with what goes into gas tanks?