Leaf Blows Smoke, Too

It takes amazing chutzpah to try, in the 21st century, to imprint the word “innovation” on anything having to do with the automobile. So it’s no surprise that the Nissan corporation is also aggressively preying on the public’s enforced energy ignorance. Here is the current form of that effort, an ad being run in heavy rotation during NFL football games:

The Nissan Leaf, of course, is barely selling, given its exorbitant price and pathetic performance. But the haloware effect is, given the otherwise inexplicable existence of this expensive TV ad, obviously of great value to car marketers.

The above ad shows people in various settings dealing with smoke and inconvenience from an imaginary world in which small appliances burn gasoline. “What if everything ran on gas?” intones Robert Downey, Jr., Nissan’s voice-over actor.

“Then again, what if everything didn’t?” Downey smugly concludes, suggesting that the “electric” car isn’t every bit as toxic and stupid as a petrol-powered dentist’s drill would be.

So, okay Robert, what if all cars were electric?

A few images relevant, for rather basic reasons, to that suggested reality:


coal plants



Multiply as needed to create a world of a billion+ new “electric” automobiles…

Electric Loss Leader

huckdud Huzzah! GM has now sold 5,003 Chevy Volts in 2011. That’s a whopping five one-hundredths of one percent ( or .0005) of 2011’s total year-to-date sales of 10,503,526 “light vehicles” in the United States.

Meanwhile, with the government having bailed GM out of the cost of developing this pathetic coal-burning boondoggle, the corporation is settling down to reality, where GM now all but openly admits the Volt is nothing more than a halo product/marketing device.

The marketing operates at two levels — mass media and showroom floor.

In the mass media, GM continues to spend exorbitant (probably a record, if judged by marketing dollar per Volt sold) sums on Volt commercials and ads.

The mass media marketing strategy? Greenwash plus techwash:

Volt marketing chief Tony DiSalle says this one car could lift the whole company. “When consumers see that, they quickly go to the notion that you are smart enough to design and engineer and manufacture a vehicle that’s this capable and this innovative, [and] you just must make better vehicles overall,” he says.

The showroom strategy, meanwhile, is straight-up bait-and-switch:

[Chevy] Cruze sales, by contrast [to below-anemic Volt sales], are on fire. The compact was the nation’s 11th-best-selling car last month, more popular than the Toyota Corolla. And Reuss says he thinks he knows one reason why: Customers lured to the showroom to check out the Volt are leaving with keys to a new $16,720 Cruze. That’s the Cruze shown at top; the Volt to the right.

“The Volt is leading to a lot of Cruze sales,” he told a group of Los Angeles-based reporters last week. Customers “went to see the Volt, but not everyone can buy the Volt.” Reuss says he insisted that every Chevrolet dealer get at least one Volt, knowing it will work as a lure even if no one is buying it. [Source: USA Today]

I would add that the other halo effect of this whole scam is an extension of Tony DiSalle’s point about so-called “consumers” thinking that if “you are smart enough to design and engineer and manufacture a vehicle that’s this capable and this innovative, you just must make better vehicles overall.” The larger rotten presumption they are undoubtedly encouraging is the notion that if they can make a Volt, then cars-first transportation must be sustainable and just fine.

You can tell how much trouble they’re in from just how far and how hard they now have reach.

Bill Quixote

quixote Like Don Quixote, Bill McKibben is militantly unserious, and entirely unaware of and uninterested in his own comical inadequacy.

On September 9, the bony Señor McKibben graced the stage of the Commonwealth Club of California, at an event dedicated to explaining how McKibben and co-star Paul Hawken “advocate a cleaner and healthier form of capitalism.”

McKibben’s diagnosis of our main problem?

“Our problem is far and away caused by the fact that the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry on Earth, has all of the financial means at their disposal to keep us from taking action….It’s people versus very concentrated pockets of money.”

Such quixotic superficiality is music to the ears of yuppie pseudo-radicals and capitalists alike. Its repetition signals that cars and capitalism are still safe from scrutiny, despite the accumulating facts of the matter. Fake activists can continue to buy Priuses and strike poses, while business as usual rolls along, unmentioned and unthreatened.

“Zero Emissions” = Total Fraud

shell_game As part of their ongoing efforts to perpetuate cars-first transportation, car capitalists in the United States continue to spread the notion that there is or ever could be such a thing as an automobile that is a “zero emissions vehicle,” a.k.a. “ZEV.”

As the slightest thought reveals, this is a 100 percent deceptive claim. We know, for instance, that manufacturing the battery pack for a so-called electric car releases 3.8 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And that is before the so-called electric auto has been driven an inch, i.e. before accounting for the emissions from the coal and nuclear power plants that make the electricity that drive the car’s motor.

Want a couple of yardsticks for assessing just how aggressively dishonest the “ZEV” label really is (and also just how puny checks on capitalist power are in the United States)?

In the UK, corporations are not allowed to run ads that state the “ZEV” claim.

The United States Department of Energy, meanwhile, is fully aware that serious analysis of the emissions impact of all automobiles requires well-to-wheels (WTW), not just tank-to-wheels (TTW), accounting. That’s because every car is a machine that not only gets driven, but also manufactured and fueled. So, the energy and emissions footprint of any and all cars involves both well-to-tank and tank-to-wheels sums. In mathematically form, WTW = WTT + TTW, and this is as elementary and inescapably true as 2 + 2 = 4.

It is the absolute height of dishonesty to lop off and suppress either half of this reality.

Nevertheless, the ZEV formula is 2 + 0 = 0.

It is also the depth of corrupt inaction to permit such dishonesty to rule the day. And of course, that is precisely, exactly what the supposedly public authorities of the United States are doing, despite knowing full well better. “[C]lose attention should be paid to WTT as well as TTW activities,” states the Argonne National Laboratory, to no effect whatsoever on public policy.

Now, there’s your true zero.

P.S.  As Billy Bragg once noted in a rather prescient song (“North Sea Bubble”) about Peak Oil, the Russians used to joke that, after the collapse of the USSR, the elites who had once told them that 2 + 2 = 10 were now arguing that 2 + 2 = 5.  In the USA, we’re no closer to 2 + 2 = 4 than any of that.  Indeed, our overclass’s minimizations of dangers might soon prove to be rather a bit worse than Soviet and Russian exaggerations.

Update: Coal/Nuke Cars

leaf_chassis In the first six months of 2011, in the United States, “Nissan sold 3,875 Leafs while GM sold 2,745 Volts.” Hence, if we suspend logic and accept that these figures are not exaggerations like virtually everything else claimed about these machines, there are now 6,620 Leafs and Volts among the 246,000,000 cars and trucks currently operating on U.S. roads.

So, to do the math: At this rate, it would take 186 years for so-called “electric” cars to reach the status of being one percent of the present U.S. automotive fleet.

Meanwhile, Nissan has just announced — wait for it — a $2,420 price increase on the cheapest version of next year’s Leaf.

Finally, this is not exactly the newest news, but check out this prediction of dangerous (and presumably catastrophically expensive) collision-induced intrusions into “EV” battery packs.

All this supports DbC’s thesis that the “electric car” is a mere placeholder promulgated to trick people, not excluding the hordes of phony greens who continue to swallow the bait, into giving corporate capitalists another decade or two to finish sucking all the wealth they can out of human history’s greatest infrastructural boondoggle, the cars-first transportation system of the United States.

CAFE Fraud

In the United States, government devotes great energy to helping the overclass conceal the multiple disasters inherent in cars-first transportation. The agency that tracks the tens of thousands of yearly deaths in car crashes and invariably reports them as good news? That’s the National Highway Traffic Safety (not Danger) Administration.

Hence, how surprised are we here at DbC by this report about the fraudulence of federal CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) mpg ratings?:

Under a 62 mpg CAFE rule, real-world fuel economy would be just under 50 mpg.

And if CAFE were 47 mpg, the real-world number would be about 38 mpg.

To know why, you have to understand what the CAFE number is — a sales-weighted average of the mpg ratings for vehicles produced in a given year. Vehicle mpg ratings are based on lab tests using a dynamometer, a sort of treadmill for cars.

Dynamometer testing produces an artificial number, but it does provide controlled conditions. No wind, no rain. And it allows for precise test protocols. For instance, the federal city-driving test cycle lasts 1,874 seconds, with an average speed of 21.1 mph, and has cold- and hot-start segments of 505 seconds each.

That’s where CAFE mpg numbers come from. But — here’s the curveball — those numbers don’t appear on window stickers.

In an effort to get closer to real-world fuel economy, CAFE numbers are reduced by 20 to 25 percent, depending on the type of vehicle. So a car that scores 35 mpg on the laboratory test will have a window-sticker rating of 28 mpg. [Source: Automotive News, May 9, 2011]

The obvious purpose of the continued use of a test known to be unrealistic? To make the “debate” on transportation among politicians sound more serious than it is, and to thereby shift attention farther away from the real issues, which continue to be utterly unmentionable in public fora.

Ignorance on Stilts

chris-paine This is Chris Paine, the gent who made the movie claiming that Big Oil somehow strangled the “electric” (read: coal or nuclear) car.

Not surprisingly, Chris is now claiming victory for himself while shilling for the auto corporations with a new and even dumber movie designed to flatter (e.g., “Meet the Revengers: people who have taken REVENGE for the electric car by converting a gas car, building their own EV, installing charging stations, or otherwise doing their part to generate and promote electric vehicles”) navel-gazing liberals into sleeping through what remains of history.

Chris has never disclosed the slightest interest in connecting transportation with the laws of thermodynamics. If he had, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so thoroughly fooled by the basic physics and economics of supposedly “new” schemes for using 3,500-pound machines for everyday locomotion. As it is, he has moved from mere major crackpottery to that plus pimping.

And the operation known as “Mother Jones” is knee deep in peddling this amazing trash.

In closing, a sample of the depth and power of Paine’s thought:

In the course of filming Revenge of the Electric Car I became a little more sympathetic to the car industry in terms the way it impacts the global economy. Not just in Detroit in the obvious ways, but the workers in this industry all around the world. Also, lots of things that progressives like, like the show The West Wing, were largely supported by car advertising. This stuff went away when Detroit started to go under.

Nuclear Cars

tepco_explosion There has always been an envelope of magical thinking surrounding the automobile.  “Auto” means self.  “Mobile” means mover.  But no animal or machine is a self-mover.  To do their work, all require fuel from external sources.  Nevertheless, “automobile” is what we call cars.

Notwithstanding the rosy promises of capitalists, Presidents, and foxy greenwashers, the delusion doubles when we talk about the “electric” automobile.  Electricity, you see, does not come from nowhere.  Just like movement in animals and machines, its creation requires fuel combustion.  So, there is really no such thing as an electric car.

So, given current events, may I, ahem, pose a quick quiz question?

Q: What nation-state is presently home to the most nuclear power plants in the world?

Your answer.

The hard truth of the matter, as Gail Tverberg puts it:

Without nuclear electric power, electric cars seem very unlikely.

We would need more, rather than less, electric power to run electric vehicles. In the years ahead, it may not be all that easy to add electrical power of any kind. If areas were to lose nuclear electricity, they would be at a particular disadvantage.

Indeed, Gail doesn’t quite state this strongly enough.  The real truth is that, if we really think we’re going to be running 200 million “electric” cars, we will need not just nuclear power, but more nuclear power, meaning many more nuclear power plants than presently exist.

Funny, you don’t hear this very often, do you?

Let Them Eat Smarm

In the United States, car crashes have long been the #1 killer of children.

Automobiles are also the number #1 worldwide source of both greenhouse gas emissions and petroleum consumption.  As such, cars-first transportation rivals nuclear war as a threat to everybody’s children.

Meanwhile, automobile advertising, which fixes attention exclusively on the level of individual model selection, not only continues to go unchallenged as it ignores these realities, but people are actually choosing to watch the paeans to death.  This disgustingly smarmy piece of Pavlovian “brand awareness” (read: zero information about the actual product) indoctrination is case in point.  It has drawn 45 million voluntary “viral” views, according to Advertising Age.

Ecoboost: 18 MPG!

As the haloware rolls out, what are the lords of money actually hoping to sell you?

This, of course:

2011 ford explorer

If you agree to pay the extra cost, Ford will swap out the stock v6 engine for a four-cyclinder with the smaller, deeply Orwellianly-named “Ecoboost” motor.  The Explorer Ecoboost’s wondrously Earth-friendly fuel efficiency?  “About 18 miles per gallon city and 26-27 mpg highway.”

The rationale?  Of course, thanks to the basics of commodity exchange, in all ages, smaller cars mean smaller profits. Indeed, this fact plagues capitalists now as never before:  “Manufacturers need more growth in large cars, mid-SUVs and full-size pickups to get into the real profit zone.” It also explains the 2011 Ford Explorer, which is merely a new version of the same old size-pushing gambit.

By refreshing the partly false, partly Satanically selfish SUV safety marketing claim while actually stripping away the (almost never used) functions of prior SUVs, while also comparing the Ecoboost’s ROFLMFAO mileage improvement “to the ancient 4.0-liter V6,” Ford has a product that, in the words of a commenter at Automotive News, “has all the right ingredients to be phenomenally profitable.”

Of course, even without mentioning the general criminality of car-peddling at this late date in anthropocentric geologic history, this diminished-SUV marketing effort constitutes a conscious and carefully planned EcoCrime compared to the obvious alternative of simply selling small, maximally fuel-efficient automobiles.  By fixing prospects’ attention on (laughable) improvements on prior SUVs, Ford greenwashes its continued push to sell ever more SUVs.