The American Auto Culture And The Financial And Fossil Fuel Disaster

       Yes, America is an automobile culture, been one since early in the 20th Century.  There was a time when it was surmised that most of the children of America were conceived in an automobile.  Americans today, cannot fathom a life without being seated behind a car’s steering wheel.  A person’s character is established by the kind of automobile that he drives; the class system exists in America and Americans are socially classified from a Ford Focus owner to the owner of a Rolls Royce!

      At one point in time, America was the automobile capital of the world.  American economy was and ‘Automobile Economy’; the auto industry drove the American steel industry and the American oil industry.  Fifty years ago, the auto industry lobby and the oil lobby convinced Americans that they should eliminate public railroad passenger transportation, urban and intercity.  Clean-air electric driven rail transportation went out of business and in Mid 20th Century the rails were dug up and the copper wire was salvaged as scrap.  America readily traded their freedom to travel on public transportation for the ‘magic beans’ of fossil fuel automobile transportation; Americans today cannot perceive a society without having their own ‘wheels’ within a few steps of their door.

     Suddenly, in the advent of the new 21st Century, the gods of hope and happiness turned on the Americans with the shock-realization that fossil fuel had destroyed their environment, the source of fossil fuel was running out, and that foreign entities controlled the remaining fossil fuel source that was necessary for their automobile culture to survive.

      Americans simply ignored entirely the impending threat of fossil fuel disaster.  They simply paid the increased in the price of fossil fuel.  When the situation worsened and America’s auto culture was totally threatened, Americans did not even realize then that their leaders were sacrificing the lives of the children to fight ‘oil wars’ (Persian Gulf War 1991 and the War in Iraq 2003) to fill the tanks of their SUV’s; America never admitted to wars for oil but instead hid the facts, saying the wars were about aggression and weapons of mass destruction.

      The rest of the world realized the American greed for oil, but sat by and said nothing because of their own desperate need for oil; let America do it.

      Since the end of World War II, the American auto industry continued building what Americans wanted, bigger cars that guzzled even more fossil fuel, and abdicated the low fuel consuming autos to Japan, where labor was cheap.  American Auto Manufacturers began importing foreign steel; it was cheaper than American steel. General Motors moved one entire plant from Flint Michigan to Mexico to take advantage of cheap non-union labor; Flint Michigan became a ghost town as documented by Michael Moore in the film, “Roger and Me”..

      Suddenly, American ‘made’ autos appeared with engines made by Japanese Auto Companies; the American Auto Industry was advertising, “Buy American”, when totally American produced autos no longer existed.

      When climate change was discovered and fossil fuel reserves ran alarmingly low, the American Auto Industry introduced the new prestigious gas guzzling SUV that every successful American should own.  The prestigious military-like, gas-guzzling Hummer became fashionable.

      Now, in the year 2008, the three American Auto Producers are facing financial disaster.  They came to congress to beg for a financial bail-out to allow them to survive; they offered as collateral retaining those few remaining auto workers’ jobs.  They came with no plans for producing autos that were not dependent on fossil fuel.  They came with no plans for autos that use less fossil fuel.  In fact they came to get a bail-out of their financial crisis without any plans for reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuel or America’s environmental crisis.

      It seems appropriate to apply to the Auto Industry, those words of President Kennedy in his inaugural address with a new twist, “The Auto Industry should ask not what their Country can do for them but what they have done to their Country!” 

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