Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Have you filled up a Ford lately?

by Rich Miles

Wow!!! I'm going to have to disappear for 8 months more often! Since I posted the other day, I've received no fewer than 9 "Welcome Back!" messages, one of them from someone highly placed in the state Democratic Party, and one from someone I thought was very angry with me and wouldn't bother to say anything to me, much less anything of a welcoming nature. Thanks to all of you who had such kind things to say to me, and especially to you, Joe Sonka, who not only welcomed me back on MY blog, but did so on YOUR blog as well. It's nice to know people noticed!

Anyway, on to the topic at hand: the massive stupidity of the Ford Motor Co.

Recent news stories will tell us all that Ford has finally seen the light, and is going to stop making massively oversized, overpowered, gas-guzzling automotive monsters, and start making smaller cars that get better gas mileage - some models up to 40 mpg.

It's a good thing to read that. Ford has corporately contributed more to global warming and gas shortages than almost any other car company in the world, consistently year in and year out, and learning that they seem finally to have learned their lesson and are going to get with the program is good.

That's the SURFACE reality. But as you may suspect, I don't DO "surface".

Come with me back to late 1973-early 1974, when OPEC and their pals made their FIRST naked grab for power, or at least the first one I had ever had occasion to take notice of. I was in college back then, and driving 500 miles back and forth from school to home 6-8 times a year. I drove an Austin America which got perhaps 30-35 mpg, but even at that I was spending more than I had on gasoline.

Because, you see, gasoline had gone from about 25 cents a gallon (no, I am NOT insane, it really was that price) up to 43-50 cents a gallon in the space of about a month or two - an increase equivalent to going from $2.00 to $4.00 a gallon in relative terms - relative to its damage to my budget and yours in any case.

Well, there was panic, there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth across the nation, and over the course of the next few years, all sorts of things of a more or less salutary nature came to pass: President Carter, who came to office in January of 1977, signed an executive order lowering the speed limit on interstate highways nationwide to 55, thereby saving some-odd gazillions of gallons of fuel over the next several decades, not to mention tons of air pollution. Car companies (including Ford, I have to say in the interest of full disclosure and fairness) started making small, more or less fuel-efficient cars like the Pinto, the Vega, and others that I have mercifully forgotten. I say mercifully forgotten, because despite Detroit's efforts to cater to consumers who had started to notice that our cheap gas wasn't necessarily going to last forever, they never did do it quite right - it was sort of like they were creating stopgaps, because they anticipated that the demand for gas sippers was temporary, so they didn't have to do a particularly good job of making them because they were going to get to STOP making them in not too many years,

And to a certain degree, they were right in that assumption: here we are, 34 years or so later, and we've had 70+ mph speed limits for several years, the SUV has become the vehicle of choice for the affluent (and any of the rest of us who can afford it) despite its extremely low gas mileage, and while there are numerous high-mileage models from nearly as numerous auto makers, these are generally loss leaders, unless you're one of those tree-huggers who has ordered your Prius or something. In short, while we've known for years that we need to watch our mileage, we still (Americans at least - most of the rest of the world are smarter than us in this regard) loves us some SUVs, and some humongous Ballbuster sedans (with apologies to Hunter S. Thompson). Fuel efficiency bedamned, we were AMURRICANS, gawdammit, and we could suck up and burn as much fuel as we wanted to. And so, like the average dog, we did it cuz we could.

And to add insult to injury, we are also paying our tax dollars to companies like Ford and GM and Chrysler for keeping their factories open and their workers working, and their very poor corporate planners planning, whether any of this benefits the American people or not. Because the leaders of these companies can get the government to bail them out every few years, and give them tax breaks, and so on and so forth, so we don't have to pay the social costs of all those unemployed auto workers (witness the dead, stinking corpse that was Detroit.)

But it didn't have to be that way. We had plenty of advance warning. 34 years of advance warning, to be precise.

So for now, we can pretend that this whole fuel crisis sneaked up on us - there was nothing we could do, it just came out of nowhere, etc. etc - but those of us who either lived through it or have some sense of history know better: we had PLENTY of warning, and even heeded some of it for a minute or two.

So it only remains to be seen if this time, it will really stick.

I urge you to go to Europe, or Great Britain, or if you can't go because you haven't the money because of fuel prices and the costs of travel they cause, look at some pictures of their roads on BBC America or somewhere: over there, they got the message some years ago. Almost NO ONE drives a car with more than 4 cylinders, and they're pretty peppy little cars at that. Only the extremely wealthy drive gas-guzzlers, and on the average day of driving you probably won't see a half-dozen of them. And also, the air is cleaner. Surely that counts for something.

Do they pay more for fuel over there than we do over here? Damn right they do. But they also understand that they simply CANNOT drive gas guzzler cars, not only because of the cost of the fuel but because of the damage it does to their environment. So, just about everyone, or at least everyone like you and me, drives what we in America would call a "small car" or a "sub-compact" - because it makes sense. Because it's smart to do so. Because they're not stupid.

And because they're not Americans, who believe it is their god-given right to drive any great huge gas-gulping monster they wish.

One day, we here in America are going to have to join the rest of the world, and stop being so selfish. You think you'll live to see it?

I'm not sure I will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rich, let us transpose the GOP Energy Policy to the War On Drugs.

After all they are both addictions, right?

Give tax money to those who grow the "addictive" crops, open up more distilleries.

Create a tax free period for these "addictive" products, so that we make them more afforable for everyone.

Vote against any legislation that does anything to inhibit the use of this "adictive" substance.

Oh, the "straw" man says yes, but some are "illegal" and destoy the individual.

But then, some are "legal" and destroy a Nation.

To me it seems, that in a choice between Jimmy Carter's energy plan and other plans, we chose Billy Carter's plan.

Step up to the bar boys, the drinks are on me. If you feel bad in the morning, just try a little of the dog that bit you.