The economy of the United States is absolutely dependent upon oil. That simple observation was obvious a hundred years ago. With the mass production of effective automobiles beginning about 1910, the reduction of horses to obscurity and the slow degradation of railroads into only the long-haul of bulk items was the new world of transportation.
Back in the 1910s America found plenty of oil to run its cars and economy, but by the 1960s Kennedy and all of the presidents following him were talking about American energy independence. While they talked, our oil imports continued to increase and thus our dependence upon foreign oil escalated. Several independent factors grew, which at the time were seen as good things. In those 100 years our population has gone from 91 million to 311, the number of automobiles from 0.5 million to 250 million. Unfortunately, what is less defensible is the horsepower and gas consumption of those huge cars that were built, and the unwillingness of the American public to buy more fuel-efficient cars. We refused to abandon the conspicuous consumption of big, heavy and powerful status symbols. Two years ago my blog post, The American automobile is going to eat the food off your plate, warned of that problem and referenced an earlier post –“You can’t cure stupid!” especially Detroit-stupid. When I wrote that blog it seemed to me like the Detroit auto executives were behaving at the pinnacle of human stupidity. These top Detroit auto executives were flying off to Washington in private jets and begging for money so they could continue making exactly the kind of wasteful vehicles that were destroying America and the Earth.
Last night I was watching TV and saw a Chrysler ad, which appeared to be a direct confrontation to my blog post noted above. It touted a big mean-looking car strutting around Gotham city, like a Batmobile acting like John Travolta, with the voice-over saying in a beautifully arrogant voice – Because, that’s what we do.
That arrogant idea is the new mantra throughout Hollywood and will no doubt become standard pabulum for this generation. Lady Gaga comes out of her egg with a similar theme. The basic idea is great—be your quirky self—but these media people start off with a full blare of excess, so they will burn out the idea before it can really be developed. The problem with this fantasy arrogance is that when it is applied to America’s behavior in general it will soon lead to national collapse, which won’t be a fantasy. The ancient saying “Pride goes before a fall” will play out as oil becomes too expensive to operate our huge fleet of excessively large cars. China with more economical cars will get its workers to and from their jobs with less gas and will be able to sell their products on the world market just that much cheaper. Thus American jobs and American workers will take yet another hit. When America loses its stranglehold on the oil supplying countries of the world, America will go into crisis. The tiny part of US supply coming from Libya, being disrupted this week, shows just how dependent upon foreign oil the US really is, and prices rocket.
If Detroit had been pushing to build European level economy cars ever since the first days of the VW beetle invasion of 1959, we would be going two or three times as far per gallon of gas, and we would still be using American oil to run our cars. Now that easy-to-get oil has been burned up, and we are forced to drill under a mile of ocean water in the Gulf to get more. It is possible that the very cars I saw in the Chrysler ad will rust out from disuse rather than wear out from normal use, because of the great expense of operating them when gas hits $100 per gallon, say, ten years, probably less.
The American big car will consume American jobs.