Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fairy tales

I caught this story at work last night, and thought it was one of the more insightful and amusing articles I've read about the current gas crisis.

By Warren Brown
© 2005, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Children’s Hour has been extended
at the White House. It is a time of make-believe in
which the nation’s leaders tell fairy tales. The
latest story is a political favorite. It goes like
Once upon a time, there were cruel car companies in
the United States. They were known as the Detroit Big
The Big Three made big cars and trucks that used
lots of gasoline. The people of the United States
could not afford them. That did not matter. The Big
Three controlled their minds with powerful magic dust,
called advertising.
Whenever the people complained that their cars and
trucks were too big and their gasoline prices too
high, the Big Three polluted the air with magic dust.
The people breathed it in; and they were quiet.
This went on until the nation’s leaders decided to
put a stop to it. The leaders consulted members of
Congress and the environmental establishment to
concoct a witch’s brew, called CAFE, which stands for
corporate average fuel economy. The car companies
would be forced to drink CAFE and build the kinds of
cars and trucks the virtuous, energy-conscious people
of America always wanted.
The new cars and trucks would save lots of fuel —
the equivalent of 10 billion barrels of gasoline,
according to the latest proposed mixture of CAFE. The
people would be happy, and all would be well with the
In addition, the noble leaders of America gave the
people a bonus. Under CAFE, the people would not have
to do anything. They would not have to pay higher
taxes for the gasoline they loved so much. In fact,
the leaders promised to “ease the pain” of the people
at gasoline pumps across the land, which is
Washington’s way of saying that the people might one
day return to gasoline prices of barely $1 a gallon
for regular unleaded — no matter that they already
were paying the cheapest prices for gasoline in the
developed world.
This way, the people of the United States could
have their gasoline and waste it, too; and that made
them very, very happy.
The people like this story, even though some of
them suspect it is a lie. Few of them ever question
how they alone could be so blessed to pay $3 a gallon
for gasoline, when people in Europe are paying the
U.S. equivalent of $6 a gallon. Few of them pay
attention to the laws of supply and demand in a world
that now uses two barrels of oil for every barrel it
Rapidly growing demand for oil in China, India,
Eastern Europe, Africa and South America does not
concern them. They are Americans. They’ve grown up
with an unshakable sense of entitlement — cheap oil
for everyone forever. They love their big cars and
trucks and the superhighways that take them to big
houses and big shopping centers in big suburbs.
Any politician or federal regulator who questions
that belief is doomed to unemployment. As a result, no
one dares tell the true believers that the fairy tale
is just that, and nothing more.
Energy conservation is someone else’s problem —
something for the car companies and the petroleum
industry to work out without disturbing the psyches or
the bank accounts of the people. The myth pleases
everyone. Big, rich companies get to carry the bill,
burden and blame for energy conservation. Elected
leaders get to be re-elected by not telling the people
the truth, which is that everyone has to pay for the
energy mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. The people
are allowed to keep freedom of choice in the
marketplace. With cheap gasoline, they don’t have to
buy the more fuel-efficient vehicles that CAFE
demands. They can buy whatever they want and drive
until the roads run out, which is not likely to happen
anywhere or anytime soon.
Several weeks before the White House proposed its
new CAFE rule, which would set fuel-economy targets
based on vehicle size, weight and class, President
Bush signed a $286 billion highway bill to build more
roads and bridges, which will accommodate more cars
and trucks driving more miles and using more gasoline,
and which will lead to the construction of more
suburbs with big shopping centers and big parking
The American people have applauded this. They are
content with the fantasy that the Almighty has chosen
them, and only them, to have the cheapest gasoline in
a world torn asunder by deadly resource wars.



At 10:42 AM, Blogger Dan said...

And what kind of mileage does your vehicle get?

At 4:40 PM, Blogger Pete said...

18 in the city; 22 on the highway.

Nonetheless, I take a perverse delight in all the people driving their big SUVs who are bewildered by their soaring gas bills.

As we've discussed, it's a small step toward the crumbling of the car culture -- a demise I wholly welcome.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Erik said...

I just got a Jeep Cherokee and I love letting it idle in my driveway as I take a shower and sleep at night.

At 10:48 AM, Blogger Dan said...

I love it when SUV owners sleep in them while they idle in the garage.


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