[Marxism] Kunstler at the Auto Show

Jon Flanders jonflanders at jflan.net
Fri Apr 22 19:39:37 MDT 2005

Some red meat for the the author of "The Geography of Nowhere"

Jon Flanders

Orion Online/Curmudgeon in the Wild

No problemo!

Delusions Run Deep in the Easy-Motoring Economy

By James Howard Kunstler                

If the Devil himself wanted to design a perfect trap for attracting 
morons, he couldn't have done better than this season's New York 
International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center. While I am known to 
be judgmental by disposition, I honestly did not set out with this 
notion preconceived. I arrived at it only after interacting with some 
of the attendees, many of whom might have passed superficially for 
average Americans.

Perusing the various exhibits was like being in the world's largest 
auto dealership, nothing more -- which is to say, it was a surprisingly 
dull environment. It is, after all, just a trade show. Each brand of 
car had its little area with half a dozen models on view. Many of them 
had giant wall-sized plasma TV screens that played what amounted to 
extended TV commercials of the kind with which we have been so 
constantly bombarded over the decades that they barely register 
anymore. But it is interesting to actually pay attention, because they 
uniformly send a bizarre message: You are all alone in your car in a 
beautiful environment.

The cars on screen are generally depicted as swooshing along gorgeous 
winding rural roads, with no others in sight -- just you and the open 
road! This is obviously an old and alluring archetypal dream, and it is 
also obviously at odds with the more common reality of creeping down 
Route 17 in Hackensack, or some ghastly highway like it, with traffic 
backed up at the frequent stoplights and vistas of the entropic horror 
of American hyper-retail amid wastelands of free parking at every 
compass point.

The big news here was that there was so little news from the automakers 
themselves. Judging from the cars on display, they apparently aim to 
stick with the program of the now-ubiquitous low-mileage SUV war wagons 
as far ahead as anyone can see -- along with the still-popular 
gas-hogging pickup trucks based on the same chassis as the SUVs -- and 
the familiar cast of luxury sedans with jazzily updated electronics. 
There was remarkably little recognition that the civilized world -- the 
motoring world -- stands at the threshold of a new era characterized by 
the end of cheap fuel.

I hasten to add that there were nods to the notion that perhaps other 
fuels might come into play. There were several "hybrid" vehicles on 
display, and there was one cross-sectioned specimen of a hydrogen fuel 
cell car, which might have fooled most of the attendees but seemed to 
me an obvious hoax -- the fuel tank was misleadingly tiny, given 
hydrogen's peculiar characteristics. And there was no hint of cost. 
(The current Mercedes-Benz F-Cell prototype has a recently reported 
price tag of $1.4 million. If they got the price down by ninety 
percent, it would still be a problem for the average motorist). But 
these displays were little more than transparent public relations 
efforts intended to put across the message: No problemo!

This huge annual car event happened to be going on during a week in 
which the price of crude oil jumped above $55-a-barrel for the first 
time since the late summer of 2004.You'd think that this would be a 
signal to the American public that it was time to...uh...re-think our 
national obsession with easy motoring? Not so. At least not among the 
people I spoke with at random. Their delusions were strikingly florid, 
in fact, the most common and basic one being that America possesses a 
bountiful supply of oil -- if only the sundry enviro-freaks and 
corporate chiselers would let us at it.


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