Green Naivete

zero Remember this? “President Obama is expected to deliver a speech on oil and energy issues on April 20, the anniversary of the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill,” so let’s petition him to mention Peak Oil!

What’d we get?

Peak Oil was certainly not mentioned, and neither was the anniversary of the oil rig explosion — because there was no speech!

There were, however, these 3 powerful and impassioned paragraphs in a press release.

The Oil Subsidies Charade

sleight-of-hand President Zerobama and the green establishment are teaming up to push the notion that federal tax breaks for oil companies are at the heart of our mounting energy problems. The claim is that eliminating $4 billion dollars in special tax write-offs for petroleum corporations will somehow allow “alternative” energy production to gain an equal footing and, thereby, yield viable new energy supplies that can replace present flows.

It would be hard to find a more ridiculous piece of demagogy than this, even in our age of truly shameless counterfactual lies.

The main lie here is the ulterior one: the implication that “clean energy” is just waiting to burst forth, if only we would give it a chance. The reality, of course, is that all the “alternatives” being pushed are: a) already being heavily subsidized by the public; b) old; and c) hopeless.

It’s also hugely silly, of course, to pretend that ending a $4 billion tax loophole is a serious act in the scale of things. Not only would the subject corporations be exceedingly likely to find new ways to favorably re-shift their already loophole-riddled tax bills, but Exxon alone reports official profits of $9.25 billion for just the fourth quarter of 2010.

As the supposed progressives waste everybody’s time with such magical thinking, the oil corporations are preparing themselves and their shareholders for maintaining their privileges as host societies plunge into a future of extraordinary misery.

With a left like this, who needs the right?

Cars and Classes

royalty The ruling ideology, distinctly including its academic manifestation, holds that automobiles are freedom machines and social equalizers. Cars-first transportation “unites [Americans] across class, racial, ethnic, and religious lines as few other aspects of our society can,” alleges Rutgers University transportation engineer James A. Dunn.

Of course, this familiar incantation is about as counter-factual as you can possibly get.

The claim, as DbC has explained before, doesn’t even hold water at the level of automotive usage. There, the rich enjoy the luxuries and choices, while the poor scrape, suffer, and go without. The distribution of cars, if one bothers to actually look at the uncontroversial facts, is one of the least equal categories of “consumer” goods.

The much more significant link between automobiles and social stratification, however, enters at the level of business ownership and the question of who benefits from selling cars. If you examine the institutional facts here, you discover that cars-first transportation is — literally — lifeblood to the investing class. Without it, the enormous privileges and prerogatives its members continue to enjoy, despite the times, would be in severe jeopardy.

If you doubt this link between cars and the upward flow of surplus wealth, consider the news that one of the major proponents of the latest, just-announced Obamian cave-in — the extension of greatly reduced estate tax rules — was none other than the National Association of Automobile Dealers. In the middle (or is it still the beginning?) of Great Depression III, you might think that NADA would favor measures to equalize income and wealth at least a little. After all, despite the inequities on the matter, it is commoners who buy most of the cars.

So why did NADA instead lobby for further extending the supply-side cap on estate taxes, a rule which overwhelmingly benefits the already-rich and, thereby, deprives the masses? As Automotive News reports:

WASHINGTON — In a victory for auto dealers and Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl, President Obama and congressional Republicans agreed on a tentative tax-cut package that would head off a huge increase in the estate tax.

The agreement yesterday, which still has to be approved by Congress, would set a maximum estate-tax rate of 35 percent for two years with an exemption of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.

“This (proposal) will help restore consumer confidence and speed economic recovery,” the National Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement today.

The NADA and other groups pushed for the estate-tax rate in the proposal as an alternative to the Obama administration’s plan earlier this year for a 45 percent rate with an exemption of $3.5 million per person.

The average net worth of an auto dealership was $2.2 million in 2009, according to NADA data, suggesting that most dealerships would not be subject to any estate taxes under yesterday’s proposal.

About half of all U.S. dealerships are second- and third-generation family businesses, NADA spokesman Bailey Wood said.

In other, more honest words, car dealers are capitalists, and, as such, they always place themselves first, because they can and are used to it and believe they deserve it. “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people,” as one radically misinterpreted social critic once observed of the first principle of all overclasses, clearly remains the maxim of “the masters of mankind.”

This amazing piece of short-sightedness, of course, is but the tip of the iceberg. The automotive industrial complex remains a pillar of corporate capitalism and its drive to maximize and maintain overclass wealth flows. Automobile dealerships are small potatoes inside that order. As always, across the whole system, even when its own interests are close and easy to see, today always trumps tomorrow for our self-described “entrepreneurs.”

And, in the real world, that’s cars for you: Heedlessness machines and social polarizers.

Today’s Lesson on the “Green Cars” Oxymoron

buick city

Today, we get news of the latest Obama bailout of corporate capitalists. Today, it comes in this form:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has reached a deal on a $773 million environmental trust, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, to clean up dozens of former General Motors sites spread over 14 states, officials said Wednesday.

The funds will target automotive sites containing hazardous waste that were left shuttered by the auto giant’s bankruptcy last year. About half of the 89 sites covered by the trust are in Michigan and others are in Indiana, New York and Ohio.

At GM’s abandoned Massena, New York complex, the pool of PCBs is so deep it has not yet been (and possible could never be) even measured, despite decades of controversy.

One effect of this toxic lake? “[New York] State-conducted studies have found PCBs in the breast milk of nursing Mohawk mothers and in their infants.”

All this and more (dig the name of the bankrupt corporate shell of the “old GM” — Motors Liquidation Company (MLC) — where’d the “General” and the “GM” go, boys?) is interesting in its own sordid Obamian right.

But permit me to enlarge: The more general point is that manufacturing automobiles is inherently energy-, materials-, and toxics-intensive. “Green car” is an oxymoron, whatever motor ones stick in.

Car Materials

The Supply-Side Bailout is Working!

Not as a way of restoring the corporate capitalist economy, of course, but as a way of restoring corporate profits.

According to Automotive News, the latest overclass constituency to confirm that its conventional flows of surplus wealth have been brought back online is the nation’s largest used-car sales overlord, CarMax:

CarMax Inc., the nation’s largest used-vehicle dealer group, said today it posted solid revenue and profit growth in its most recent quarter amid continued strong demand for used cars. Net income grew to $107.9 million for the quarter ended Aug. 31, up 5 percent from the same quarter last year. Revenue jumped 13 percent to $2.34 billion.

CarMax shares jumped nearly 7 percent in morning trading, to $25.75, near its 52-week high of $26.50.

And, of course, a government bailout program provided the catalyst:

Even though the cash-for-clunkers program didn’t apply to used vehicles, Carmax said it increased traffic at its stores.

The average selling price for used vehicles was $18,084 for the quarter, up 5 percent from $17,185 during the same quarter last year.

Its finance arm, CarMax Auto Finance, reported income of $52.6 million compared with a $72.1 million profit in the same period last year. The year-ago period’s income was boosted by $36.2 million in one-time items.

Never let it be said that this country doesn’t take care of its used car corporations!

We Demand a Gesture!

carter solar As greens continue to stay home in droves and let Oilbama’s skin color cover his continual betrayals, some would-be rebels are demanding that Jimmy Carter’s gesture of installing solar panels on the White House roof be re-enacted.  Even the generally great Richard Heinberg is buying into this pathetically misplaced effort.

Underlying this silliness is the widely-repeated fiction that Jimmy Carter was somehow serious about altering the energy use of the United States.

In reality, Jimmy Carter has never understood the nature of the system he once babysat, and certainly never came within a country mile of trying to alter it.

Yes, his April 1977 “Address to the Nation on Energy” did contain a handful of honest observations about Peak Oil.  But Carter’s proposed responses were entirely inadequate and unserious.  Cars-first transportation, in Carter’s view, was just fine, so long as people reduced (by unspecified methods and degrees) the size of their vehicles.  And “economic growth must continue” was a “fundamental principle.”  In other words, Carter, as people knew at the time, was a pitiful and unpersuasive self-canceler.  His core argument was:  We face a dire crisis, and we must continue doing the things that are causing it. Talk about a loser!

Carter was equally deluded about energy itself.  In his self-pitying, proto-Reaganite, even more illogical July 1979 “Crisis of Confidence” speech, he asserted that “the solution of our energy crisis” was lying in the ground right here at home.  “We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world’s highest level of technology.”  So, one wonders why all those untapped Saudi Arabias had remained and still remain untapped.  The answer, of course, is that they absolutely did not and do not exist, at least not in any EROEI-positive sense, despite Carter’s tortured bullshit claims.

The truth is that Jimmy Carter was a true Democrat — a prevaricating poser with low self-awareness, whose first, second, and last commitments were to preserving the existing order of things, at whatever cost required.

It’s time for us greens to stop being tricked by Carters and Obamas and start building a serious movement for eco-social reconstruction.  The time for mere gestures is long gone.

And, by the way, green gesturers, roughly how much does it cost to “solarize” one’s house?  Last time I checked, even a small attempt would run somewhere in the ballpark of a whole year’s U.S. median income.  What percentage of the population is presently in any position a) to access, and b) to spend that kind of jack?

Memo to Rachel Maddow

maddow oval office Rachel, you are certainly correct that OilBama blew it.

But two wrongs don’t make a right. Passing an “energy bill” is not going to do jack shit to prevent future oil rig explosions or any of the other costs and dangers of the status quo.

The reasons:

1. 80+ percent of U.S. oil use is due to cars-first transportation.  71 percent goes directly into gas tanks, and at least another ten percent goes into making cars, building asphalt roads, and automobile-induced generally inflated petroleum use.  If we do not radically demote the automobile in this society, more deepwater oil drilling and rig disasters are assured.

2. Doubling or tripling automotive fuel efficiency standards in the US car fleet is very easy to say, and essentially impossible to do, unless you spend trillions of dollars doing so.  If we are to switch over to glorified electric golf carts, we will need to rebuild our entire existing road and fueling infrastructure, as well as our whole electrical grid.  If we are going to spend trillions, we should rebuild our cities and towns to facilitate truly sustainable transportation, not more cars.

3. Doubling or tripling automotive fuel efficiency would merely slow the pace of oil use.  It will absolutely not “get us off oil.”  In fact, trying to double or triple automotive fuel efficiency would INCREASE the rate of petroleum used in road and vehicle building, both of which would be required to make micro-cars exist in sufficient numbers and platforms.  The automobile in any viable cars-first format is a 1,500-plus-pound metal and plastic box for moving people distances that ought to be covered by walking, bicycling, and using shared public transit vehicles.  As such, it is inherently oil-instensive and radically unsustainable.  Why haven’t you ever pondered that, Rachel?

4. Alternative fuels do not, and probably will not, exist, except as counterproductive tricks on end-users desperate for answers.

5. Until you liberal wonks stop working to keep people tied to shameless sell-outs like Obama, none of your fantasy-world legislative rebellions stand a ghost of a chance of happening.  We need social movements and serious discussion of reality, include the necrosis of the Democratic Party, not misleading and unserious beltway pwog talking points.

Grow up, Rachel.  This isn’t a game.

Wrong Again About Obama…


I apologize.  Try as I might, it remains impossible to underestimate President Obama.

Considering the topic at hand, that was perhaps the most bloodless, pathetic speech in U.S. history.  Flaccid would be too strong a word for it.  People coaxing kittens away from yarnballs are more outraged and urgent.

And Obummer promised even less than the moldy crumbs I’d expected.  Another elite, stacked commission of inquiry, another Harvard creep in charge of another institution, and promises of promises about unnamed “clean energy” vaporware.  That’s it.  Not another penny for public transportation, our decrepit railroads, or even electric cars.  Zip.

This guy is a somnambulant babysitter on Xanax.  He makes Clinton look good, Al Gore passionate.  Somewhere, a career-chip office is missing its Level 29 Bureaucrat.

And this isn’t funny, either.  If there was ever going to be a moment for raising the topic of seriously overhauling our suicidal cars-first transportation order, this was it.

Not a hint of a whisper of a peep about that from this place-holding corporate pitchfork-catcher.


Every Bit as Bad as Bush

spill cartoon Obama is just a complete wipe-out, a true sock puppet distracting his duped followers from the corporate capitalist death-trade he represents and believes in.

The latest proof is an email he’s apparently sent to his entranced minions, on this, the eve of what is sure to be a solemn statement of Oval Office timidity.

In this email, Obummer says this:

“The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a new future. That means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything — from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks — more energy-efficient.”

In other words:  Join me in fighting our cancer, by reshaping our tumor!

And there’s also this:

“Many businesses support this agenda because shifting to clean energy creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. This is how we will reinvent our economy — and create new companies and new jobs all across the country.”

What exactly are “clean energy” and “this program” to which we merely need to “shift”?  Nobody, including Mr. Obummer himself, has a clue, because neither exists.

Most likely, what Obama is suggesting is more subsidies for negative EROEI ethanol production and tax breaks for the electric cars that the overclass is planning to use as a distraction.  Neither of these things is remotely serious as a potential solution to the ridiculous level of energy waste that cars-first transportation, on behalf of our investing class, imposes on us.  And any fool who suggests otherwise is literally dumping more petroleum onto a raging inferno.

All the while, according to Obama, “entrepreneurship” is the answer rather than the force that brought us exactly to this deregulated, profits-über-alles point.

Suicidal ideology you can believe in…