Pushing the Message

Here is a hallway snapshot I took on my visit to the local car dealership this morning. Fascinating that car dealerships still get away with such shameless things. Also amusing to see that, in the “high tech”status-monitoring graphic here, there are no automobiles parked in the dealership’s lot! Paging Dr. Freud…

greenwashing at car dealership

More on Killing for Money

Cigarette filters were invented in the 1920s. When the public began to contemplate the true nature of cigarettes, filters went, in corporate endeavors, from experimental oddity to mandatory product part.

Wikipedia explains:

[Filters were] considered a specialty item until 1954, when manufacturers introduced the machine more broadly, following a spate of speculative announcements from doctors and researchers concerning a possible link between lung diseases and smoking. Since filtered cigarettes were considered “safer”, by the 1960s, they dominated the market. Production of filter cigarettes rose from 0.5 percent in 1950 to 87.7 percent by 1975

The purpose of the cigarette filter was never, of course, to make cigarettes safe, since such a thing is an oxymoron — as every corporate seller of the things surely knew by 1954. The real purpose was to extend the salability of cigarettes in spite of the undeniable fact that they are deeply defective and dangerous things.

I mention all this because, despite Bill McKibben’s continuing insistence that they are part of the solution to looming ecological disasters, electric automobiles are cigarette filters writ large. They are a technology that our mass murdering corporate overlords are foisting upon us in order to keep selling automobiles, which, like cigarettes, are an inherently defective way of accomplishing everyday intra-urban locomotion.

If you want evidence of this, consider what Automotive Age reports about EVs:

[A]utomakers…invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new technologies that don’t yet pay for themselves — “profit deserts” is what Mark Wakefield, co-leader of the global automotive and industrial practice at AlixPartners, called them.

Electrification isn’t the only major r&d initiative. Investments in automated-driving technology are on pace to reach $85 billion through 2025. Combined, those investments won’t do anything to boost bottom lines in the near term, Wakefield said.

Electric vehicle sales volume, Wakefield says, will remain low, averaging just 14,000 units sold per EV model through 2022. That’s a far cry from what automakers expect from traditional vehicles.

Automotive Age, July 1, 2019

The only logical explanation for this “profit desert” phenomenon is the same one that explained the corporate move to filter cigarettes back in the 1950s.

The Mary Barras of the world certainly know they are selling a product that is ruining the planet’s living conditions. But these executives need a way to make their efforts look innocent, so they can keep doing what they do for the big money. Inside the industry, EVs are made and sold at a loss so that cars in general can continue to be sold.

Meanwhile, as Mary Barra also certainly knows, in the United States, automobiles are now the nation’s single largest source of GHG emissions — bigger now even than electricity generation.

Should we say it? Death by Car…

Don Quixote Triumphs Again

quixote and sancho panza Ah, McKibben…

One of the reasons democracy is so crucial is that, contrary to the beliefs of the US founders, it itself is a major check-and-balance.

350.org, you see, is not a democratic organization. It is a property of Bill McKibben and his donors and his carefully selected fans (whom I am tempted to call enablers).

Praising himself for going on “a gruelling tour,” our Man of La Middlebury now claims that “divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts.”

The series of specious claims about pertinent facts in this declaration is stunning.

So is the claim that fossil fuel divestment is a “major action” against the forces driving the planet to catastrophic climate change.

That, of course, is an extremely debatable hypothesis, not a clear fact.

The major counter-argument is that fossil-fuel divestment is a distraction and a detriment to effective movement against the core forces of destruction.

Are, as McKibben would have it, “the fossil fuel companies” really our main enemy, or are we up against something a great deal bigger, wider, and tougher than these important but perhaps secondary organizations?

Is trying to demonize “the fossil fuel companies” really a good way to raise the deeper issues that even McKibben admits need raising? Or is doing this actually a way of continuing to not talk about what really needs to be talked about, while also nurturing the dangerous fiction that we will somehow figure out how to run all our corporate capitalist stuff on wind and solar?

In a true grassroots social movement, all this would be openly discussed, decided, and reconsidered over time. In 350.org, however, we simply get what we are going to get, no debate, please and thank you.

Hmm…where have we heard that theme before?

ExxonMobil’s Propaganda

With all due respect to legions of well-meaning McKibbenite activists, our problem is cars and corporate capitalism, not fossil fuels. Nevertheless, it is true that, because of the continuing reign of cars, some very powerful corporations enjoy spectacular privileges, including outsized influence on our minds. In order to perpetuate this remunerative arrangement for as long as possible, these corporations do engage in rank, fully-knowing propaganda. To wit, this little ditty from ExxonMobil, which runs frequently on corporate TV:

Gosh, Exxon, if your scientists have unlocked algal oil as a source of automotive fuel, why the wait? Why “someday”? Why not now?

The answer, of course, is that algae are absolutely not a potential source of meaningful amounts of automotive fuel, now or ever. This is due to the nature of algae and the laws of physics. Trying to make them so would require converting the entirety of the nation’s arable lands to alga bogs. ExxonMobil knows this full well, yet hires marketing agencies to sell the direct opposite claim. Such is the foundation of “our” economy.

Chutzpah

Mary Barra photo I have a vision of living forever in perfect ease and amusement. This vision is of precisely the same quality as the various visions of those promoting and accommodating the continuing reign of the automobile, who have taken to saying they dream of the inherently unsafe and unsustainable product that is and always will be the lifeblood of our epoch’s outdated socio-economic order one day becoming safe and sustainable. Like I said…

Of course, when the “vision” talk emanates from the world’s third largest maker of the machine in question, you know you’re well past the territory of Orwell and Huxley.

To wit, this.

Only in age like ours, one entirely soaked in overclass bullshit, could such a statement not draw outraged howls. But there it sits.

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…

World Scientists Go Vague

knifeQuestioning the reign of the car is, if done with a modicum of skill, a direct assault on capitalism. Hence, such questioning is one of the most taboo and underdeveloped of all possible intellectual and political pursuits in today’s world. Little wonder, then, that the world scientists couldn’t, despite their science, bring themselves to mention the word “automobile” in their renewed warning to the world.

Where cars ought to have been, we get instead the usual pablum about green energy and fossil fuel “subsidies.”

Dear scientists everywhere: We aren’t going to hint and euphemize our way to progressive survival.

McKibben Gets a New Car

hypocrisy Jim Motavalli peddles the notion, in part for The New York Times no less, that there is such a thing as “green cars.”  He is, he says, “passionate about hybrid, hydrogen, biofuel and electric cars.” He is also pals with none other than Bill McKibben, the Don Quixote of our epoch.

McKibben, as we know, is on a tour of the nation’s colleges, trying to encourage the kids to strike a pointless pose about Big Oil, which he describes as a mere “rogue industry,” rather than part and parcel of our cars-first transportation order.

In this context, Jim Motavalli reported a highly interesting fact this week:

McKibben is on a 21-city campus tour in a biodiesel bus, speaking and raising hell. He called me from the road, shortly before taking delivery of his new Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid.

Without commenting on the harebrained joke known as biodiesel, let us ponder this very telling “delivery.” Not only is this a hugely over-rated non-revolutionary product, but accepting (and thereby endorsing) it is analogous to C. Everett Koop ordering up a case of Camel Lights after testify against cigarette corporations.

DbC now wonders whether Mr. McKibben is more than a sad enigma and an example of the limitations of endowed activism. Is he, in fact, a positive danger to the world, a beloved misleader and miseducator, a huge hypocrite?

DbC also asks: Was McKibben’s C-Max a gift from Ford?

Love Trope Goes Electric — And Hilarious

When I first started writing a book about capitalists’ insistence on cars-first transportation, I tried to figure out who coined the familiar jive-line “Americans are having a love affair with the car.” Striking out myself, I wrote to several leading American historians. It seems nobody knows the answer. There’s little doubt it was industry PR, but the thing seems to have become so natural-sounding that people forgot to keep track of where and when they first heard it.

The latest mutation of that century-old trope comes in a particularly humorous form — a claim on behalf of the Chevy Volt!

Precisely as it idles production of the Volt due to lack of sales, GM breaks out this “Happy Volt Owners” ad series:

There is a world of ridiculousness and overclass chutzpah in each line of this thing. “Adam” says he wakes up every morning thinking about the future, but is obviously either unaware of or untroubled by the fact that the electric motor in his new automobile is actually powered by coal, natural gas, and nuclear fission. He “loves” his Volt, he tells us — twice — but fails to mention its price, where and when (or if) he bought it, or how he uses it. Will it burn down his house at some point after being bumped in a parking lot? “Adam,” though he is supposedly somebody willing to spend $40,000 to “make a statement” about how thoughtful he is, doesn’t trouble himself with such things, apparently.

How nice for “Adam” and the ≈5,000 owners of Volts. GM assures us that, despite their beloved car’s status as about .002 percent (yes, 2/1,000ths of one percent) of all passenger cars now on the road in the United States, they are not just the nation’s but the planet’s happiest drivers.  Who’d have guessed?

You heard it there first:  Americans are having a love affairs with the Chevy Volt!