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Buy American! (The Automakers Need Your Charity)
I'm from Detroit, and I'd love to buy an American car -- just as soon as they start coming out with cars that top the imports. (Or even even come close.) At the moment, I drive a Honda Insight hybrid -- first introduced in 2000 -- and I don't know about you, but I spent $157 on gas...last year. And my car's look reminds me of something out of Tom Swift. As for the vehicles Detroit's producing, here's a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal that hits the nail on the head (gasket):

It's as Simple as This: Detroit Is Not Delivering the Goods

Your defense of the auto industry against raising fuel economy standards ignores the fundamental failure of automakers to respond to the already skyrocketing price of gasoline ("The Drive-a-Toyota Act," Review & Outlook, July 2). You suggest a gas tax is the only way to curb American consumption of oil. But that assumes the auto industry responds rationally to higher gas prices by producing more fuel-efficient vehicles. History proves otherwise. Over the past seven years, the price of gas has doubled, and despite promises to make more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, Detroit has continued to churn out huge SUVs, Hummers and pickups.

Ironically, you suggest it would have been irrational not to continue building these gas-guzzlers, because additional labor costs add about $1,500 per vehicle, compared with Japanese or Korean competitors, thus forcing automakers to manufacture the vehicles with larger profit margins than more-fuel-efficient cars. Okay, let's consider the $6,000 rebate offered with the Dodge Ram pickup truck, and similar high-priced rebates for other huge white elephants stranded on dealer lots. If those dollars had been invested in fuel-saving technology they wouldn't have to offer rebates that are two to three times as large as the labor cost differential. Instead, Detroit opted to virtually bribe Americans to buy vehicles that will cost them much more for fuel, and send many more dollars overseas to buy oil from nations hostile to our interests.

Finally, you admit that "technology exists to further increase fuel efficiency," but warn that to employ it would hurt the Big Three because it will make their cars more expensive, less competitive and reap smaller profit margins. Huh? This ignores the price of gas -- which you said would drive the market -- and the hue and cry of people who are shedding their gas- guzzlers in droves. Our analysis shows that with gasoline at $3 per gallon, the average consumer who takes out a five-year loan to buy a car or truck will save money because the increase in monthly loan payments is less than their savings on gasoline expenditures. Fuel economy, especially for trucks, is cash-flow positive from the first month.

Mark Cooper
Director of Research
Consumer Federation of America
Washington

And, echoing my words above, here's an excerpt from another letter from another guy who'd like to buy American:

I desperately want to back the U.S. automakers when I buy a car, but the Big Three and their labor forces need to stop whining and start delivering.

...At the same time, GM did not see a short-term benefit in hybrids while Toyota was looking forward 10 years (who could have imagined instability in the Middle East affecting fuel prices?) Now Detroit is struggling with SUV withdrawal and it's hurting.

...As a frequent traveler, every time I rent an American car I am reminded of why I no longer have one. My sympathy for Detroit is undermined by brittle interiors, clumsy handling, a big gas bill for a very short trip, topped off with scuffing my shoe on the ridiculous foot-operated parking brake that hasn't evolved since 1960. When I bought a one-ton truck, I gave Ford every chance to match the value of the Nissan Titan. I'm sorry to report that Ford couldn't get within $1,500 of the Titan with an F-150 with fewer features and less confidence from this consumer. I decided it wasn't my job to subsidize bad management decisions and union demands that result in workers making $27 and hour to play cards because their contracts guarantee a job when there is no work to do.

I was a happy owner of a brand new Saturn the second year it was available. I recall it was a success until the managers in Detroit tightened their grip on the start-up division and began forcing shared platform components from the other GM units. After buying Saab, the GM visionaries saw fit to outfit the Saab 9-3 with components from the Chevy Malibu. Having rented a car that "you knew America could build" but that only Avis would buy, I suddenly lost my appetite for a Saab convertible.

Steve Town
Erie, Colo.

As for what's become of Detroit in the wake of the automakers' laziness, see the photos at Lowell Boileau's site, The Fabulous Ruins Of Detroit. And here's Lowell shooting photos in Hollywood, where all the wreckage is human.

LowellHollywood.jpg

photo by Gregg Sutter



Posted by aalkon at July 18, 2007 12:54 PM

Comments

It's not so simple as that.

I won't buy anything that GM, Ford, or Chrysler have to offer for the simple reason that nothing they make is interesting in the slightest. Bland cubed.

And if people didn't want the SUVs, they wouldn't be making them. The fact that people keep buying them and companies like Toyota and Hyundai are getting in on the action should tell you how the car buying public feels about gas prices, their protestations aside.

For someone like you, who obviously drives less than 5,000 miles a year, a hybrid might make sense. I go through your $157 in gas in less than two months with a 25 mpg Jetta. Tell me again how much money I'd save if I only bought an overpriced hybrid? Hint - I'd never make back the premium on the car in gas savings (most of my driving is highway, where the Prius doesn't do much better than any other econobox).

So, yes. Detroit is losing out to the competition over things like mileage and styling. But it isn't choking (yet) on SUVs, and the lack of hybrids only matters to people who buy them as badges of conspicuous anti-consumption.

Posted by: brian at July 18, 2007 4:17 AM

My car does best on the highway, and people on the Insight BBS give tips on how they drive to get even 100 mpg.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 4:34 AM

Amy - TANSTAAFL.

What does your car get for city mileage? My 25 mpg is a running average over the 6 years I've owned the car. I can get 30mpg on the highway if I lock the cruise at 80. I get under 20 if I don't touch anything over 25 for a whole tank.

And when you get 100 mpg out of your insight, you're necessarily giving something up - like the gas you burn charging the batteries, or the electricity you pay for to charge them if you've modified your car.

Hybrids are a very application-specific solution. For someone like me, I'd never make enough back over the life of the battery in gas savings (which can't be more than 5 years, tops) to cover the premium of the car over a non-hybrid. In addition, I'd be taking on debt to buy a car when I've got one in excellent condition free and clear.

Ultimately, hybrids are going to go the way of the dodo. They are not a sufficiently useful solution in the long term, and the TCM + TCO (total cost to manufacture plus total cost of ownership) still exceeds even the worst offenders in the MPG wars.

Posted by: brian at July 18, 2007 6:56 AM

There is an after market reprogram kit available for most American cars. On gas engine cars/trucks the increases in gas mileage is only one or two miles per gallon, although you do get a %15 boost in horsepower. However on diesel engines the increases are significant.
I have a buddy that bought the kit for his ford excursion. His mileage was 14 mpg city, 16 mpg highway before he reprogrammed the cars computer. Now he gets 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. That is fully loaded with gear and folks or not, (diesels don’t seem to care what the vehicle weight is).
Quite frankly unless one has the money and space to store multiple vehicles it is difficult to find one that will allow you to carry four suites around, in comfort, during the week, yet still be up to hauling, camping, fishing or what ever heavy work might need to be done on the weekend.
FYI, he always programs the car back before he takes it in to Ford. He is worried about the warrantee.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 18, 2007 7:01 AM

Also,
Let me agree with Brian here. You just can’t say oh look at the gas I am saving when one owns a hybrid. That is total bull. Electricity production is very inefficient. (First you have to burn fuel to boil water, then run the steam through a turbine, then waste what ever energy is left in the steam.) Furthermore huge transmission losses occur when electricity is transported. (This is because early on we went with high powered AC transmission instead of low powered DC transmission.) So to try to say you are saving all this energy using a hybrid is stupid. You are not. You may however, be saving yourself money.
So enough of the Smug stuff. I’d post the south park episode on Hybrids if I could, but I am just too ignorant.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 18, 2007 7:09 AM

Actually I quickly ran some number. Assuming you drive 775 (25mpg, $157/2 months, 87 octane $2.80) miles per month and a constant gas price of $2.80 the price difference will equal out in about 8 years. You would save approximately $52 a month and the price difference in base models is $5,500. If you use the pulse and glide method you may be able to go past the 60 mpg rate values. Now if your heavy on the gas and breaks then your probably not getting the 25 mpg from the jetta anyway. If the price of gas goes up to 4 dollars a gallon then the Prius will be the same cost as the jetta in about 6 years. As far as repair costs, again it depends on how you drive and how you take care of the car. In addition the price of hybrids will go down over time, the price of gas will not.

I read about the 110 mpg experiment at

http://www.autoblog.com/2005/08/09/team-achieves
-over-100-mpg-in-toyota-prius/

you may not be able to practically achieve this on average but nice to know it can actually be done. To get optimal performance you need to use the correct fuel (don't know if they need 87 of higher octane) and keep up with scheduled service and the pulse and glide method which may make some people sea sick. My dad uses it with normal cars for some reason, I still have no idea why.

Posted by: vlad at July 18, 2007 7:10 AM

I get about 60 on the freeway and 45 in stop-and-go traffic in town, which is all the traffic, pretty much, in Lost Angeles, unless you're driving at 3 a.m.

I'm not one to buy stuff and get rid of it...to get a new car just to ge a new car, for example. Midwestern values, I guess. I still have my dreadful t68i Sony Ericsson that I bought because it was supposed to work as an Internet connection. But, it still works, so I still have it. I'm likely to keep my car for 10 years. Honda's are great. One of my close friends has the same car he got when he started grad school in Lost Angeles...probably over 10 years ago, and it's still going just fine.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 7:13 AM

P.S. My battery and the car are warranteed for 10 years.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 7:14 AM

Um, while I agree with the power loose due to the change from gas to electric the movement of electricity power lose is carp. First we went with AC power transmission because it's MUCH more efficient then DC. Second the boiling water is done by the engine which is already heating the water while you drive normally. After a long drive try to touch your cars radiator (NO don't actually touch it cause you will get burned). The only thing the hybrid is doing is using the excess heat your car is already producing (which your radiator is radiating into the air) and convert some of it to electrical energy.
Finally if you are saving money by buying less gas then wouldn't you be using less energy by default?

Posted by: vlad at July 18, 2007 7:32 AM

Isn't Amy - at least - setting an excellent example in view of her own, very particular motoring needs as a single household, childfree, non-commuting, LA urbanite?

Or have I got that wrong too?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 18, 2007 7:44 AM

Additionally -- and this is very important to me -- my car is a SULEV, a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. I don't believe I have a right to pollute the air any more than absolutely necessary. If I could've bought a veggie-oil vehicle, like my friend Darcy recently did (a new Bug that runs on used oil), I would've. But, none were out then and I'm not exactly capable of building one. I use my bags from reusablebags.com at the grocery store (I have five, but I always have one in my purse for when I buy something at the drugstore) and do my best to not waste energy needlessly. The cool thing is, while I've been bringing my own bags for years to the grocery store, now Trader Joe's enters me into a raffle for doing it, and I get a discount at some other stores.

This isn't just about using less gas. I care about whether you have to breathe stuff coming out of my tailpipe. Do you, likewise, care what people are breathing from yours?

P.S. I used to bike or rollerskate everywhere in New York (I rollerskated 50 blocks every day to 48th and 5th), but I feel too imperiled now with everyone not only on cellphones in their cars, but text-messaging!...the next big unnecessary killer on the road.


Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 8:34 AM

P.S. Jody, if I commuted, I'd get much better mileage. Would I be more virtuous in your eyes if I spawned and had a kid to carry around in my car? Or if I didn't arrange my life so I don't have to drive too far, and didn't combine shopping so I can drive one place and do all my errands?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 8:37 AM

Jody - I'm not criticizing Amy's choice. I'm criticizing the opinion that it is an optimal choice all around. It is not.

Vlad - You are missing one VERY important component in your TCO - battery replacement. You're talking 3,000 to 5,000 dollars. Add in the envrionmental impact of making the battery and properly disposing of/recycling the old battery, and you're not saving anything in terms of money, energy, or pollution.

And I can verify that even with my foot-heavy driving I get an average of 25 mpg with the Jetta. I can drive from my house in CT to my friend's in NH and back on less than one tank. That's almost 300 miles round trip. Last time I went up there, I had a trip mpg of just over 30.

All a hybrid does is move the costs somewhere else. The only thing that makes the Prius have any real advantage (I can't speak to the Insight, I have no idea of the engineering behind it) is the regenerative braking. Energy that every other car disposes of as waste heat is recaptured on a Prius. And you aren't doing much braking on the highway.

Amy - My friend had a Honda Civic VX about 10 years ago. It was good for 50+ on the highway, and had probably double the interior room of an insight. And it had some serious power. Your numbers prove the point that the only real savings in gasoline with a hybrid come from city driving, where it stays on battery most of the time. But if you don't do any serious highway driving, then your city mileage will drop like a rock on account of charging the battery, or you'll be paying for the electricity from your house to recharge the thing.

Posted by: brian at July 18, 2007 8:38 AM

Amy - actually, no. I don't care much about what other people have to endure. I care about me.

I don't like stink, so I have a clean car. It's ULEV certified, but that wasn't a selling point. It does what I need it to do, it doesn't put stink out its ass end, and it doesn't hoover my wallet.

Any benefit that someone else derives from my choices is purely coincidental.

And I use the plastic bags from the grocery store. They are excellent receptacles for dog poo.

Posted by: brian at July 18, 2007 8:44 AM

Right I did not include the battery because if the car is under warranty for ten year then you don't have to pay for the replacement batteries for ten year. You are also assuming that the Jetta won't need major repairs after 10 years. Also if the battery is under warranty then they are most likely the battery is sent back to be re-manufactured. The cells would be disposed of carefully by the manufacturer for PR reasons if nothing else. If the US manufacturers could point out that the foreign car companies are polluting our environment don't you think they would?

Posted by: vlad at July 18, 2007 9:16 AM

Uh Amy,
How dose this help your concern about what comes out of your tailpipe?
If I could've bought a veggie-oil vehicle, like my friend Darcy recently did (a new Bug that runs on used oil), I would've. But, none were out then and I'm not exactly capable of building one.
Do you think burning Vegetable oil helps the environment? Do you think it is cleaned than burning gas? How about natural gas?
I just do not see how burning bio diesel is Green.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 18, 2007 9:21 AM

"Would I be more virtuous in your eyes if I spawned and had a kid to carry around in my car?"

Amy,
Did you misread me?

Why would I even humorously suggest such a thing to you?

I was saying that you seem to be scrupulous in explaining your particular requirements. (In fact, my fabulous Ojai-based aunt,a single householder, kids long gone, proud owner of the world's sweetest cross-breed miniature terrier is also a happy Honda-hybrid-booster!)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 18, 2007 9:40 AM

Amy - I find it very hard to believe that Honda would build the replacement costs of the battery into the car up front. You're talking a minimum of $3,000.

Unless I blow a motor after 100,000 miles, there is no single non-recurring maintenance cost that I'm going to incur that comes close to that dollar amount.

And there's no real "environmentally safe" way to recycle a battery. Sure, you can capture all the chemical waste, but what do you do with it then?

More than anything, a hybrid represents deferred costs. It's technologically spiffy, but its long-term environmental impact is actually worse than a typical gas-powered automobile.

Posted by: brian at July 18, 2007 9:48 AM

Sorry, the bulk of that response was aimed at Vlad.

Posted by: brian at July 18, 2007 9:49 AM

I have been disinclined to jump on the hybrid bandwagon for the reasons mentioned by Brian - I think the jury is still way out when it comes to whether hybrids are actually better for the environment, due to the issues of batteries and other manufacturing complexities. But, I'm happy that others are doing so. We need to explore new ways to exploit the use of electricity for our transportation needs, and the demand for hybrids is driving that.

On the main topic of the page - there are excellent, high quality vehicles being manufactured in the U.S. My Honda Accord is one. From what I understand, the biggest obstacle that U.S. manufacturers face is the UAW. Work rules, legacy costs, and non-market wages in their collective bargaining contracts impose huge expenses on the big American manufacturers; because Detroit has to compete on price, these costs come out of things like R&D. It's no surprise that American manufacturers continue to lag Japan in design and quality. The big irony is that the cushy jobs and benefits that the UAW has bargained for will ultimately be the things that destroy their employers. Unions had a huge and important role in creating the American middle class in the industrial Northeast. Now, their short-sightedness is destroying it.

Posted by: justin case at July 18, 2007 10:46 AM

> setting an excellent example

We'll know that environmentalism is a grown-up human impulse when it stops worrying about the messages it sends to the little people.

> Or have I got that wrong too?

You must never offer such a tempting target, Tressider.

I live in a neighborhood near Amy's, but love to climb to a favorite mountain in the Santa Monica range every month or so to think Big Thoughts. [Google Earth fanatics can email cridmountain at gmail dot com and I'll send the link, best viewed in 3d. It's the perfect spot for meteor showers]. The spot is just far enough out of town that you couldn't get up there and back down in an electric, and couldn't negotiate the mountain curves with confidence anyway. Which brings us to the worry about Amy's hybrid:

> if I commuted, I'd get much
> better mileage.

If you commuted in that thing, you'd either A) die in an accident, with the close view of a Hummer grill as your last sight of life on Earth or B) pull your red hair out from the discomfort of sitting in that wretched little cabin for more than 14 minutes at a time.

> I don't believe I have a
> right to pollute the air
> any more than absolutely
> necessary.

For years we've been asking you this: At want point does a piece of road travel become "absolutely necessary"? You won't put it into words, and there's a reason for that.

Posted by: Crid at July 18, 2007 11:03 AM

You must never offer such a tempting target, Tressider.

Darn it - thought you might be AWOL up a Santa Monica mountain today, Crid.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 18, 2007 11:09 AM

As far as "absolutely necessary," it means this city is arranged in a way where it's hard and inefficient to get around without a car, and I can't get my mail at home, as I have convicts writing to me, so I get it at a mailbox place. P.S. If I could take a subway downtown, I would.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 11:31 AM

> this city is arranged in a
> way where it's hard and
> inefficient to get around

More obfuscation! Are you saying cars are only "necessary" when transit is "hard"? What do you mean by "inefficient"? These wiggle words aren't fit for use as environmental principles, and they'll collapse the first time you try to codify them into policy. Construction workers, soccer moms, and cubicle drones across the spectrum have their own ideas about "efficiency."

> If I could take a subway
> downtown, I would.

Funny you should mention it. The building in your picture is where I'm working tonight. (It's kind of a failure as a retail space, so some of it has been shaved off into a post production facility. There were 4,000 people there last night for a salsa concert; it's like working at Disneyland sometimes.) There happens to be a subway station in the basement, but it doesn't come out here to WLA. Traffic-wise, it's a straight shot the through the heart of the beast: Beverly Hills at 3pm. If only the train made a straight shot down to the beach...

Posted by: Crid at July 18, 2007 11:44 AM

Amy,

I haven't even finished your article so I'm replying out of fury. Detroit is so chickenshit I could puke. I can't knock them for having the nerve to treat their customemrs like idiots and assholes - the American public deserves it. Toyota the best managed manufacturing company in the world (of any company you've heard of, GE is a distant 2nd and no-one else is on the same planet) because they know that efficiency breeds more efficiency - they don't need to build high-margin vehicles. By the way, Detroit and their counterfucks in Aerospace have screwed the domestic economy by failing to demand excellence from their supply base. Toyota doesn't let its suppliers suck.

Posted by: DaveG at July 18, 2007 12:03 PM

Traffic-wise, it's a straight shot the through the heart of the beast: Beverly Hills at 3pm. If only the train made a straight shot down to the beach...

Crid, you have my deepest sympathy. That's LA traffic misery only perhaps exceeded by dealing with the 110/10 interchange at rush hour.

Waxman's a tool for doing everything he can to block an extension of the subway along Wilshire down to to beach. Stupid, stupid, stupid. People who can afford cars in LA will never take the bus; but the subway, that's a different story.

Posted by: justin case at July 18, 2007 12:05 PM

Something people always fail to mention is that Americans arent the only ones that buy cars. GM should at least be breaking even. Chinamen love Buicks, it's like a status symbol over there. If memory serves GM brands are the best-selling cars in China. The anger over the unions is good but for the most part a decoy. The Japs gotta pay other fees that the domestic brands can ignore.

Posted by: PurplePen at July 18, 2007 12:12 PM

Buying Japanese often means buying American. Many of those Toyotas and Hondas we're snapping up are manufactured in the US, in non-UAW plants.

Posted by: kishke at July 18, 2007 12:19 PM

"People who can afford cars in LA will never take the bus..."

The rich do take the bus here in Long Island sometimes, Justin. It's called the Hampton jitney!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 18, 2007 12:20 PM

On the topic of battery recycling:
http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets
/purl/14070-HUPGbA/webviewable/14070.pdf
Apparently you can recycle most fo the material into new batteries and use the slag (remaining material) for commercial applications. Obviously the more used batteries available the more profit there is in recycling them. So the toxic factor of batteries is a null point. Yeah it might be slightly more expensive over all. I don't know how long the newer hybrid batteries last.

You really think the Auto and Aerospace is the cause of the current economic problems? I'd say unions are at least as much to blame as the management. The companies are over managed to the extreme most large companies are.

Detroit suck because A) No one is listening to what the public wants. B) Keeping the union happy is more important then producing a decent car. C) Given that every freaking bolt on the car or airplane is designed by a groups and all the fun design work is left to the senior engineer who the hell would want to work for an Auto manufacturer?

Posted by: vlad at July 18, 2007 12:29 PM

Dave,

I agree about Toyota. It is a mystery to me though, how it works so well. Other brands like Nissan had Carlos Ghosn, Mitsubishi is known for its dirty tricks, Honda for its marketing. But Toyota? No idea how its just so damn quietly efficient.

Yes it's true that it often means buying American built. But the Japs have other fees to contend with. I hate the car unions as much as the next person but the domestics are just lazy. There has never been a reason for Ford to just ignore the Taurus, Ranger, or Focus (and when I mean ignore these best-selling models go unchanged for decades). There was never a good reason for Chrysler to be sold to the Germans, who mismanaged it. And GM should be breaking even, they sell really well and are well reviewed.

Posted by: PurplePen at July 18, 2007 12:36 PM

> It's called the Hampton jitney!

Can't tell from the website... Do they serve alcoho.? From stewardesses in ill-fitting synthetic fabrics?

Posted by: Crid at July 18, 2007 12:37 PM

Yeah, but have you seen Chinese cars? I think the Land Wind was the first automobile in history to get a zero-star rating. I have video of it going through a 35 mph static barrier test. It's beautiful, man.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at July 18, 2007 1:07 PM

That said, I'm still waiting for my 6000 SUX.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at July 18, 2007 1:11 PM

Hey, don't shit on Dr. Z. He's like a brother to me.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at July 18, 2007 1:12 PM

"...From stewardesses in ill-fitting synthetic fabrics?"

Not sure about the fabric, Crid.
But you can get manicures, massages, movies, 'ye olde English wellspring' bottled water - essential commuter stuff like that!


Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 18, 2007 1:21 PM

Just FYI, Hybrid cars do not operate a steam turbine to generate electricity. There are several different schemes for generating and storing energy in a hybrid car, but none of them use steam to do it. Have a look at this link.

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/hybrid-car.htm

Posted by: Randy at July 18, 2007 2:30 PM

"out of Tom Swift"? Which end?

Posted by: Radwaste at July 18, 2007 2:54 PM

Oh, yeah. Play this game: name a car made in America. A lot of things are assembled here, but you can't get what you think. Meanwhile, look what's available in Europe and you'll whine a little. They have a bunch of small, well-built cars over there. Think "Miata", without filling it with American fat.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 18, 2007 2:57 PM

I think part of the problem is that when American Auto makers have a good product, they quickly get rid of it or change it for the worse.

Ex: In 2004 the Saturn Vue 6cyl models included a Honda drive train. The Honda Engine was vastly superior to the previous engine they were using and was far better than the 4cyl engine. The Vue gets great mileage (about 28 on the highway which is not too shabby for an SUV) and the plastic panels would never rust and couldn't dent or ding. All in all it was a great vehicle with growing popularity, and despite the Honda drive train, it was assembled in a plant in Tennessee. So what did GM do to the vehicle in 08? They closed down the Tennessee plant and moved it the Vue production to Mexico (strike one), got rid of the plastic panels that never rust and don't dent or ding (strike two), and finally they pulled out the honda drive train and put in an inferior GM engine that is notorious for problems. The 08 Saturn is so bad that it doesn't even meet all 50 states emissions standards - it cannot be sold in PA for instance (strike 3...) The US auto makers are their own worst enemy.

Posted by: fabulinus at July 18, 2007 4:06 PM

Here's a link about the unions from a past blog item:

http://www.advicegoddess.com/archives/2007/02/health_careless_1.html

Health Careless When I was in Detroit a few weeks ago, my parents, who live and work there, told me that half the cost of an American car goes to pay for workers' health insurance, negotiated by the unions. "The unions are breaking the car companies," my mother said.

Yes, but half? She's my mother, but I still "fact-checked her ass." Here's a figure I found -- $1,500 for health care, added onto the price of every new GM vehicle, according to their CEO, G. Richard Wagoner, Jr. Not half, but not exactly pocket-change, either. And, writes Ceci Connolly, in The Washington Post link above, it's " a cost that his foreign competitors do not bear."

P.S. To whomever above was going on about steam or plug-ins or something, my Honda Insight is powered by regenerative braking, meaning the energy from braking is captured and used to power the car.

Oops, thanks, Randy -- see you posted a how-to above.

And Dave G, I'm with you. I worked at WDIV (the NBC TV station in downtown Detroit) my last year in high school, and it's tragic the way downtown was then, and even worse now. We went to a wedding at The Roostertail, on the waterfront and my boyfriend and I noticed that there are PARKING GARAGES! lining the waterfront. In other words, it's not exactly prime property, because downtown is a place nobody wants to be. Sad.

At least I got to make a few trips to Hudsons department store (the photo on the front of Lowell's site) before they killed it. My grandma actually sold gloves there during the depression.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 4:12 PM

On the size of cars...which are much smaller in Europe, Raddy writes:

Meanwhile, look what's available in Europe and you'll whine a little.

Not if you're driving there, you won't, and paying over $5/gallon for unsubsidized gas!

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12464789/

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 4:16 PM

Waxman's a tool for doing everything he can to block an extension of the subway along Wilshire down to to beach. Stupid, stupid, stupid. People who can afford cars in LA will never take the bus; but the subway, that's a different story.

Waxman is no longer opposing this. Now that the methane danger question has been resolved to his satisfaction, he's supporting.

Posted by: deja pseu at July 18, 2007 4:26 PM

You folks with the peculiar reasons why hybrids are somehow a bad thing, you might want to look into them before you post. There are flaws with the current generation hybrids, but y'all seem to have missed every one of them in favor of imaginary issues.

/Thanks for playing, better luck next time.

Posted by: Ken McE at July 18, 2007 5:54 PM

Ken - instead of insulting us with a drive-by shot, how about elucidating. Tell me what "flaws" I've missed in favor of supposedly "imaginary" issues.

I'm an engineer. I promise you you can't tell me something I won't understand.

"It's worse than that, it's PHYSICS Jim!"

Even if regenerative braking was able to recapture 10% of your total KE, that's still only a 10% improvement in mileage. Which, as I pointed out, is really moot if you're doing mostly highway driving. Regenerative braking only returns energy when you slow down.

Sure, you could argue that an electric motor is more efficient since it delivers peak torque across its entire RPM range, but it's still only part of the power plant, and the losses from running the battery charger off the engine are going to eat up most of THAT benefit. Which would explain why the hard-core Prius owners are hacking their cars to be plug-in hybrids. Although in the northeast, you'd need gas to hit about $9/gal to break even. I'd imagine with electricity costs in CA being about what they are in CT ($0.18/kWh) it's the same there.

Fact being, most of the Prius/Insight economy comes from mechanical design not related to the power train. The shape has an exceptionally low Cd (coefficient of drag). The tiny little tires have very little rolling resistance. An itty-bitty engine with variable valve timing and a fancy engine management system can run very lean.

The only group of people for whom a hybrid presently makes sense are city-dwellers like Amy. Those of us in the burbs who have clients all over the state aren't going to derive a sufficient benefit from them to make it worth the premium.

Posted by: brian at July 18, 2007 8:08 PM

Also the comments on the problems with hybrids is a major distraction from the main issue and that has to do with rising gas prices. All the articles, personal insight on the tech problems of hybrids or articles proving/disproving scarce oil have not decreased the price of gasoline through the various consecutive fiscal quarters.

Purplepen's comment on wealthy or upwardly mobile Chinese purchasing Buicks as status symbols should have been a clue. Is OPEC going to increase production quotas when China's grace period at the WTO comes to an end on January 1, 2008? When the PRC has to re-valuate its currency to compete with first rate global economies like the USA and E.U. Do you think the upwardly mobile middle class professionals in China are going to ride bicycles like the good ole days of the Cultural Revolution or explore the options of their purchasing power? Why do you think members of the US Diplomatic Corps in the Middle East are complaining through State Department channels on the increased presence of Chinese intelligence in the region? They are negotiating better deals, while the great USA is fucking up in Mesopotamia and we cannot even deliver the Iraqi oil to our own markets. Which 2 nations have the highest demand for sweet crude oil? China and the USA.

1. Will gas prices decline or rise when millions of Chinese over the next few years move into the middle class?

2. What is your set limit on how much you are willing pay for a gallon of gas before you seek alternatives?

3. Are you going place your faith in DC, US Oil Companies, OPEC and non OPEC oil producing nations to deliver an increased supply of sweet crude for gasoline? What is their current track record?

Posted by: Joe at July 18, 2007 8:20 PM

Say soemthing positive.

Also, were we ever going to get Iraqi oil? I thought the point was just to get it flowing, not necessarily flowing to North America.

Posted by: Crid at July 18, 2007 8:25 PM

I won't buy anything that GM, Ford, or Chrysler have to offer for the simple reason that nothing they make is interesting in the slightest. Bland cubed.

So is the Corolla, yet it's one of the best-selling cars in America. The difference? Its reputation for reliability makes the blandness a non-issue.

You're talking a minimum of $3,000 (for hybrid battery replacement).

Unless I blow a motor after 100,000 miles, there is no single non-recurring maintenance cost that I'm going to incur that comes close to that dollar amount.

Maybe not specifically for you, but ask someone who has experienced a pre-100,000-mile timing-belt/tensioner failure in a turbocharged Volvo or other upscale make with an interference-style engine (valves and pistons will collide if the timing components fail, often damaging both). The repair bill for this can easily reach $3,000 to $4,000.


Posted by: Doobie at July 18, 2007 9:19 PM

That fourth paragraph above should've also been italicized (looked ok in the preview; don't know what happpened).

Posted by: Doobie at July 18, 2007 9:31 PM

Crid,

Iraq Ministry of Oil and Gas annual report on bidding rates for April 23, 2005 slated opening contracts for US Oil Companies to have first crack on the long term agreements.

As of April 5, 2007, the leading companies for short term bidding rights are from China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia for the oil. Nations that doe not have a current military problem with the local population. What I've read the reports that the Chinese will receive 70,000 barrels a day and India will get 60,000.

-China will have access to oil fields in southern central Iraq.
-Vietnam will have access to oil fields in the south.
-India along the Kuwaiti border
-Indonesia in the area of the western desert districts.

US Oil companies still have a slight edge through tech means of reliable delivery to the various markets over the international rivals. But if the violence escalates, Chinese Oil companies have a standard business ethic in sending oil workers into troubled spots while Western companies fear to tread.

Presently, Iraq produces (postwar) roughly 2 million barrels of oil a day. By the next fiscal quarter the prospects are around 3 million. The highly optimistic projection by next year will be 6 million barrels a day if security continues to improve.

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani has said the government plans to tender for major oil projects in the second half of 2007. Also, there is a draft of an oil law floating around that certain members of the Baghdad government allowed key Bush people and IMF honchos (US, Germany and UK) review it before the rival nations. Well, that is the rumor.

I would recommend the White House to try to contain any more security fiascos as much as possible. Also, let the bidding wars for long term rights begin.

Anymore questions? I suggest purchasing the Iraq Strategic Report (third edition) it is roughly about 458 pages of light reading.

Posted by: Joe at July 18, 2007 10:15 PM

Also the comments on the problems with hybrids is a major distraction from the main issue and that has to do with rising gas prices.

Thanks, Joe...it got really ridiculous here on the merits of hybrids -- especially when debated by people who have never driven one and know little about them.

Part of the reason I got this car as soon as I could afford it is that I don't want to support OPEC. After the Iraq war started, I made less funny SUV cards, reading: "How many dead Marines did it take to gas up your SUV? Stylish, aren't you?"

I can't stop driving altogether, but I drive the smallest, most fuel-efficient car I could buy at the time, and think about how I live and try to limit my consumption of whatever I can. Just today, I was at Trader Joe's (food store) and I remembered that I'd left my reusable bags in the car, and I ran out and got them. So, I bought five bags of groceries, and I didn't consume a single plastic bag. I'd like to see Trader Joe's and other stores do away with plastic packaging, too -- at least, the kind made of real plastic.

And it's all products we should be conservative about consuming. Why take five napkins when one will do the job?

Brian's attitude, per one of his comments above, is that he doesn't care about anyone but himself. This is just my speculation at work, but I think that kind of thinking gives a person a sort of internal meanness that affects their own well-being. Or can.

I'm not a random altruist, but I see people and issues I care about -- especially not behaving as if I'm the only one on the planet -- and I make an effort to make change on these fronts.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 18, 2007 10:31 PM

> And it's all products we should
> be conservative about consuming.
> Why take five napkins when one
> will do the job?

This collides with your next bit:

> that kind of thinking gives a
> person a sort of internal
> meanness

Harrassing people about the number of sheets they wipe with (whichever end) is a pretty concentrated stream of "mean" if you ask me.

The problem with most everything people (expecially comfortable ones) want to do in the name of environmentalism is that it's the work of busybodies. Conservation won't help. We need more stuff. Of course we could manage our resources better: That's pretty much what the history of human progress is about. But the collisions that are coming were in our future no matter what... so long as civilization was moving forward. (I've been trying to tell you about China for years. Don't you think every Advice Columnist in Shanghai should be able to visit Paris every year too?)

Posted by: Crid at July 18, 2007 11:00 PM

No problem, Amy. If people do not see the value in conserving resources through peronal lifestyle choices, try the pocket book route. What Would Gordon Gekko Do? Personally, I am inclined towards: What Would Aristotle Do?

Your advice, personal experiences and blog posts are about choices. Voluntary or volitional choices and never coercion. All choices have an established set of drawbacks. So if a critic concentrates hard enough he/she will find a flaw in your particular lifestyle choice. The drawbacks only matter if it interferes with your ability to pursue your goals.

Has your hybrid cause you any problems in your life? You don't have to answer the question. (Most of us know the answer already) The bulk of the comments are mainly addressed to the critics of your public lifestyle choices.

Posted by: Joe at July 19, 2007 12:30 AM

> try the pocket book route.

Guys, communism is a "pocket book route." Zimbabwe is on the pocket book route this summer, and is expected to have a spectacularly bad haul through it. North Korea? Yep, it's the ol' Pee Bee Are. That Mexican telephone magnate, the richest man in the world, the one who can't find any enthusiasm for charity? His driveway is the pocket book route. Iran? You guessed it....

It's freaky that people think there's a central office somewhere that makes this things happen for humanity, so all we need to do is stop by the storefront on the way into work and drop off some paperwork. It's pathetic that people think that office is labeled "government."

This is a dynamic decade, and it caught us sleeping. But even at best awareness, no person who cared enough about this planet to get out of bed on 9/10/01 could have convinced me that so many apparently sane people could be so confused about their fundamental relationship to the planet... And could suffer this confusion while in a bloody war with irrational authoritarians.

This comment is probably a little thick n' chewy... But Jesus Fuck, people.....

If humanity can't defeat impulses so lordly, personal, and cowardly, it doesn't deserve to get past this.

Posted by: Crid at July 19, 2007 1:25 AM

Think of it as the service road to the pocket book route:

http://urltea.com/10jz

Posted by: Crid at July 19, 2007 2:23 AM

Ahh, how short memories can be. Amy - the Smart Car is a European design. Daihatsu, Toyota and others build lots of cool little cars, which would help here if it wasn't somehow important to give so much of one's paycheck to a gas pump.

You guys need to look up an ordinary physics book sometime, and do a little research on fuels and automotive engines. You'll probably be shocked to see this, but 80MPH costs you 72% MORE in raw energy costs than 66MPH. This is camouflaged by the horrible efficiency figures of internal combustion engines.

Diesel is the most practical way to go. Biodiesel is a crock now because yield is actually so low - I've seen a statement that 15% of grain production equals ONE % of diesel demand. Alcohol has a huge mileage penalty, terrible cold-starting problems and horrible seperation and oil-contamination issues. Before you get inspired about hybrids, you need to know that small size is the key, and an intelligent engine manager - only one component of which is a battery - is the lock on their mileage figures. Think smart: intelligent diesels have increased semi-truck mileage by 100% given the same loads over earlier diesel technology. Cars can do that, too, if the erratic behavior of their drivers, with abymally stupid habits, is corrected. This is because the fuel quantity difference between 40 and 50MPG is very small. Do this: figure out the difference in mileage in gallons per hour of highway operation. That will show you what you're missing now.

Do you want cheap gas? All you have to do, Mr. and Mrs. Public, is get your stupid feet off the gas pedal and do the speed limit on the cruise control, which is smarter than you are on your best day. It can pay attention to what your speed is, and you just can't be bothered for some reason. Since the last 5% of refinery capacity incurs as much as 20% of costs, a move away from production limits will drop your price, maybe even more than the resultant supply/demand effect.

By the way - electric motors do NOT produce "100% of their torque across their entire RPM range". Variable frequency drives move the RPM at which the "pullout" torque occurs - at which the electric motor can be stalled - but each electric motor (AC or DC) has an optimum speed for its construction, just as internal combustion engines. A lot about VFDs can be seen at the Allen-Bradley web site, among others.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 19, 2007 2:59 AM

Harrassing people about the number of sheets they wipe with (whichever end) is a pretty concentrated stream of "mean" if you ask me.

I was talking about dinner napkins! And I'm merely mentioning it here. But, I do speak up about certain issues -- and I think caring that many peope are dying in the Middle East and here because of the intersection of Islam and our need for oil is the antithesis of some "internal meanness." If Detroit had been innovative (which probably goes, at least in part, to what failures we are in the science department in public schools), and if somebody had come up with a way to harness anything but gas to run our cars, the Middle East would now be a big sheep farm.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 19, 2007 4:06 AM

Amy -

The one word that didn't come up here, and it's more relevant than any discussion on conservation is fungible.

Your self-righteous indignation about dead Marines for oil grates. Or perhaps you'd prefer dead PLA for oil? Because that's what fungible is all about.

Gas prices aren't rising due to some conspiracy, or even due to incompetence. It's a capacity problem.

And that's where fungibility comes in. Every drop of oil that gets pulled out of the ground WILL be sold. Every refinery will tend toward 100% utilization (or as close to it as possible). And it still won't be enough. And OPEC still gets all the money it wants.

One more thought to chew on:

How do you think they make cars light, Amy? Plastics. Plastics come FROM OIL.

I could just as easily ask "How many Marines died to make your Insight?"

Posted by: brian at July 19, 2007 4:23 AM

Joe - the arguments most of us are making against hybrids is that they have no long-term overall impact.

There's really only 2 places the industrialized world gets energy - hydrocarbon combustion (oil, coal, gas) and nuclear fission.

And we're not using near enough nuclear in our power mix.

Therefore, in considering the total energy consumption of a vehicle, you need to start at the point where the raw materials are extracted from the Earth and go all the way to when it is delivered to the end user.

And on that score, the Prius loses to the Hummer. The only way for it to balance out is for the Prius to be significantly more fuel efficient over its usable lifespan. But the battery replacement issue jacks up its total energy consumption again.

So it's more like a fart in a windstorm than it is a solution. And even if we stopped using petroleum tomorrow, there's still the other 5.8 or so billion people to contend with. In order to meet Amy's dream of defunding the Saudis, EVERYONE has to stop using oil, not just us.

Posted by: brian at July 19, 2007 4:30 AM

Perhaps if our country were more reason-focused, and science wasn't being traded in for age-old superstition, we might have had an alternate power source by now.

The idiots fighting to have the Bible taught in science class should instead be fighting to prioritize science. Well, of course, that would de-idiotizing them, and that's not going to happen.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 19, 2007 5:17 AM

that would TAKE de-idiotizing them, and that's not going to happen.

Sorry...I should be sleeping now.

Or, perhaps, I actually am.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 19, 2007 5:18 AM

Amy - please tell me what "the idiots fighting to have the Bible taught in science class" has to do with our absolute unwillingness to allow new refineries to be built, new nuclear power plants to be built, new oil fields in our own nation to be developed.

No, your favorite bugaboo - the Christians - are NOT TO BLAME.

You might want to start with the public school system, where math and science have been de-emphasized in favor of social networking skills. Been like that for the better part of 20 years.

Then you can look to the NIMBYs who protest every damn project that's proposed that might cut our imported petroleum usage by some scant amount. Start with Ted Kennedy, then go talk to Jeb Bush.

Then you can talk to the neo-luddites whose answer to everything seems to be the deconstruction of western industrial capitalism. In favor of what, they won't say.

Finally, tell me how anything I've posted here is based on superstition and not reason.

Posted by: brian at July 19, 2007 5:31 AM

All of those things are problems -- and I am very much in favor of nuclear power -- but we are way behind in science. Imagine if all the people fighting to bring god into schools were fighting to instead bring more science in (ie, improve science teaching).

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 19, 2007 7:21 AM

Just to reinforce one of the points brought up batteries - What is the MOST environmentally polluting car? It's the Prius.

The batteries used contain nickel. As an example - One of the biggest suppliers in the world is a mine in Canada, and for a THREE MILE RADIUS , it is a dead zone. No vegetation. No birds or animals. Nothing. Trucks leaving with cargo must first stop and get decontaminated lest they spread the contamination.

The Prius and Insight owners were never told of this dirty little secret. The Japanese companies still do not have a long range plan on how they are going to responsibly dispose of the batteries. They are only concerned about market share. That's why they are willing to lose money on the sale of each hybrid. (a Prius might sell for $20k , but it costs Toyota $37K.) The batteries may be warranted for 10 years, but the life is no where close to that.(And cost $5,300)

Companies like GM (BMW & Daimler Chrysler) have been unfairly criticized about their lack of greenness. It wasn't because of stupidity that they've only recently started to slowly introduce 'Mild' hybrids. They've been looking at the big picture. Vehicles like the announced Chevy Volt could be produced today. It would give GM a coolness factor and they could would like hotcakes. The problem is that the battery technology isn't quite there. GM insisted they use LiOn batteries, partly because of performance increase, partly because of those environmental factors mentioned. They don't want the same problem Toyota and Honda are going to need to deal with. GM(Daimler & BMW) are looking long term for hydrogen fuel cells.

Posted by: Dan B at July 19, 2007 8:26 AM

Brian,

I suggest being more concerned that Wal-Mart is buying a large percentage of in China's biggest retail company Beijing Hualian than discussing the flaws of hybrids. Then wonder what the average Chinese citizen is going to do with the money they are going to save while shopping at Wal-Mart?

Then re-read my post on the current oil politics of a post-war Iraq. Welcome to diplomacy 101 for the next 20 years. Or would you like to be the one to spear head a pet theory that Al Qaeda is in cahoots with the PRC?

Posted by: Joe at July 19, 2007 8:28 AM

Imagine if all the people fighting to bring god into schools were fighting to instead bring more science in (ie, improve science teaching).

And imagine if all the people fighting to save the whale, or the spotted owl, or the globe from its natural cycle of cooling and warming were fighting instead to bring more science into the schools.

Enviromentalism is at present a far more popular, and more dangerous, religion than any of the ones you rail against.

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 8:51 AM

Enviromentalism is at present a far more popular, and more dangerous, religion than any of the ones you rail against.

Worse than fundamentalist Islam? Come on! With the exception of ELF, few environmentalists do anything to directly harm other people or their property. Most environmentalists are pretty pro-science - it ain't them trying to put "Intelligent Design" into our classrooms. Most of today's science supports their global warming theories; why in the hell wouldn't they try to encourage science education?

Posted by: justin case at July 19, 2007 9:30 AM

This is an interesting tangent to this discussion. Apparently there is a bill being considered in Congress that will allow the Justice department to treat OPEC like any other cartel that fixes prices. I'd be interested to know what those more knowledgeable about these things (paging Joe!) think about this.

Posted by: justin case at July 19, 2007 9:37 AM

Worse than fundamentalist Islam?

No, you're right. Not worse than Islam. But Islam is not what Amy means when she talks about God in the classroom.

Most environmentalists are pretty pro-science

They are pro whatever science supports their position, but anti whatever undermines it. They stigmatize scientists who oppose them; they've got their agenda, and are not in favor of free scientific inquiry.

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 9:53 AM

Perhaps if our country were more reason-focused, and science wasn't being traded in for age-old superstition, we might have had an alternate power source by now.

I agree wholeheartly! If the Left would give up its religion against nuclear power we as a nation would be a lot better off, and our dependency on oil would lessened.

But I'm betting Amy that's not what you meant.

Posted by: Tristan at July 19, 2007 9:59 AM

> Perhaps if our country were more
> reason-focused, and science wasn't
> being traded in for age-old
> superstition,

You're needs-clustering. The problem isn't that some silly little woman in West Virginia takes Pat Robertson too seriously. The problem is that nothing's as gloriously useful for getting things done as oil.

> One of the biggest suppliers in the
> world is a mine in Canada

What's it called?

> They stigmatize scientists who oppose
> them; they've got their agenda, and
> are not in favor of free scientific
> inquiry.

Word

Posted by: Crid at July 19, 2007 10:23 AM

They are pro whatever science supports their position, but anti whatever undermines it. They stigmatize scientists who oppose them; they've got their agenda, and are not in favor of free scientific inquiry.

OMG!!! You mean environmentalists politicize science? I'm aghast! Certainly their opponents (like, say, CEI) would never do that. Naughty environmentalists.

No group on any side of a hot-button issue that I know of doesn't 1) try to use science to back its claims and 2) try to attack the science that disputes these claims. Not a one. If the environmentalists were smart (and I'm not sure that this is the case), they'd be very pro-science education, because the numbers are in their favor - the vast majority of climatology researchers believe that human activities play a large role in global warming.

But I'm betting Amy that's not what you meant.

I'm betting you must not read much stuff here.

Posted by: justin case at July 19, 2007 10:49 AM

You mean environmentalists politicize science?

No, I don't mean that at all. What I mean is what I said: that they don't care about science, as witness their demonization of scientists who in good faith dispute their contentions. This makes them not pro-science, but anti-science.

because the numbers are in their favor - the vast majority of climatology researchers believe

Big deal. The "vast majority" of any scientific field are not the real innovators and thinkers; they are the journeymen who follow the script that's been written. Right now the conventional wisdom holds global warming to be a great danger; naturally, the vast majority go along with it. But from what I've read, among the really top people, the jury is still very much out.

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 11:09 AM

they don't care about science, as witness their demonization of scientists who in good faith dispute their contentions.

Nobody who has already made up their mind about an issue cares about the science. The people who don't believe in global warming don't care about the science either. "Believe" is the problem here, and it's why this issue is so contentious. All the big fights are about belief in the absence of incontrovertible evidence.

The "vast majority" of any scientific field are not the real innovators and thinkers; they are the journeymen who follow the script that's been written.

Really? Cause I don't know of any scientific journal (and I've published original research in a few) that accepts anything that doesn't extend the field in some way - it's always about innovation, and you never know who's going to come up with the next big one. Most scientists are cranky individualists, anyway, and think that they are right about everything. They're not the most herd-like bunch around. You ever work in a lab?

Even accepting your "most scientists in a given field just follow the script" theory, it's a smart tactic to support educational policies that tend to make more of these scientists - if you like that script! (as environmentalists currently do). I'm not saying right or wrong here, just that it's a good strategy to use. But importantly, it's a strategy that would backfire if they were wrong about global warming; if you have a whole bunch of scientists working in a field, the method tends to produce accurate findings.

Posted by: justin case at July 19, 2007 12:10 PM

Sure, Justin.

I'm in favor of any measure breaking up OPEC. Remember the principle aim of OPEC:

"The determination of the best means for safeguarding their interests, individually and collectively; devising ways and means of ensuring the stabilization of prices in international oil markets with a view to eliminating harmful and unnecessary fluctuations; giving due regard at all times to the interests of the producing nations and to the necessity of securing a steady income to the producing countries; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations, and a fair return on their capital to those investing in the petroleum industry."

There are 2 versions of OPEC that people need to understand before the on pouring of rhetoric. OPEC before and after the international oil crisis in the 1970s. OPEC's power has been waning since the international oil crisis of the 1970s and the various oil ministers know this and had to adapt thanks to Reagan and Bush. OPEC had to have a business partnership for it to survive with all those non member states producing oil and on occasions interfere with certain aspects of environmental legislation through the US Oil Lobby. In return, OPEC would increase production and cause the West Texas Oil recession of the early 1980s and Shrub's first life lesson in business when Arbusto Energy went kaput, because of Daddy's friends and business contacts with the Saudis and Kuwaitis. Bad timing for GW's attempt on going his own without the family.

Now do people understand Bush's and DC's special relationship with OPEC? This is not a freak occurrence. Washington DC has had plenty of relationships with certain monopolies, cartels and trusts. The first modern 'activist' President Teddy Roosevelt (the so called Trust Buster) believed in good trusts as an extension of good governance through a controlled free market.

How long would OPEC last without DC support? So I am in favor:

-Antitrust legislation
-More environmentally tech savvy methods of discovering more oil.
-Tech changes in engine design.
-Lifestyle choices.
-Encourage more competition with non member OPEC nations who have large oil supplies.

"Guys, communism is a pocket book route."

So Crid, is my way communistic? The last time I checked it seems to follow the Hayekian (F.A. and not Salma) economic model that CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT. A society organised around a market order, in which the workings of the state is employed almost, though not entirely, exclusively to enforce the legal order (comprised of abstract rules and not particular commands) necessary for a market of free individuals to function.

Posted by: Joe at July 19, 2007 12:35 PM

All the big fights are about belief in the absence of incontrovertible evidence.

That's exactly my point, and why I called enviromentalism a religion. You may be right that the other side doesn't care about the science either, but it's not relevant to what I was saying, which was that one could just as well blame poor science in schools on the environmentalist religion as on the fundamentalist one.

And no, I never worked in a lab, and am not a scientist. My opinions on this issue are formed by various things I've read here and there over the years of the global warming debate, and by some prior bias against enviros as people whose priorities are majorly screwed up.

Most scientists are cranky individualists, anyway

I don't buy that - the individualist part, anyhow. I'm sure they have their pc positions like anyone else, and at present, the pc position favors global warming as a major issue.

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 12:45 PM

I also meant to say that "extending the field in some way" is not what I mean by innovation. Would you agree that the vast majority of scientists are not doing paradigm-busting stuff, but are just incrementally pushing along already-established ideas?

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 12:51 PM

"which was that one could just as well blame poor science in schools on the environmentalist religion as on the fundamentalist one."

That's just silly. No enviro ever shoved creationism down my throat in highschool. The worst thing they do is make young highschool girls turn vegan and chant "Fur is Murder" Global warming aside I cant think of any other science subject the enviros are crazy about (i.e. evolution for the fundies, stem cell research for the fundies, the big bang for the fundies etc.)

Posted by: PurplePen at July 19, 2007 1:20 PM

Interesting comments, kishke.

one could just as well blame poor science in schools on the environmentalist religion as on the fundamentalist one

I still disagree with this - the religious fundamentalists are trying to discourage the teaching of evolution, which is the foundation of much of our understanding of biology. Enviros aren't trying to undermine the basic principles of climate science. You may think differently, but while I don't love their tactics, I don't think this operates much to diminish the quality of science education.

Would you agree that the vast majority of scientists are not doing paradigm-busting stuff, but are just incrementally pushing along already-established ideas?

To an extent, but this is just what T.S. Kuhn referred to as "normal science" in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (a great read if one wishes to understand the workings of science, by the way). The paradigm-busting stuff happens when current models/theories fail in a major way, and produces a lot of chaos; it doesn't happen with great frequency in any discipline. But good science, even that done by the less notable figures within a discipline has the potential to call into question deep assumptions of the field. And in the "publish or perish" world, you need to do this type of work if you want to succeed - granting agencies and tenure committees care a lot about the quality of a scientist's published work. Good journals don't accept trivial extensions of previous work, and without publications in good journals, a researcher doesn't get tenure, doesn't get grant money to do more work, and doesn't have much of a career. You have to push things forward in a meaningful way, and you have to take risks and ask real questions in your work.

Posted by: justin case at July 19, 2007 1:57 PM

That's just silly. No enviro ever shoved creationism down my throat in highschool.

Well, of course not, that's not their religion! What they shove down kids' throats is the enviromentalist screed.

The paradigm-busting stuff happens when current models/theories fail in a major way,

And perhaps also when current models and theories are at the center of a great deal of contention? That's certainly where global warming is at now.

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 2:15 PM

> Hayekian (F.A. and not Salma)
> economic model

If Freddy ever gave a rat's ass about how much tissue you use to swipe an orifice, I missed that chapter. Joe, Puh-leeze.

> - Lifestyle choices

If it's a choice and not a crime, then there's no penalty for behaving in the way you prefer we not, correct? Whether it's an extra napkin with the bagel or a Hummer for the commute.

Environmentalism is all about fucking with people. When considering all these matters, the vulgar human brain says "In order fix these problems, we'll have to take control of _____." And all the sudden the frontal lobes glow warmly, because nothing entrances the soul like the fantasy of control.

Napkins are a good a place to start as any.

Posted by: Crid at July 19, 2007 2:20 PM

And perhaps also when current models and theories are at the center of a great deal of contention? That's certainly where global warming is at now.

It doesn't hurt that all of the interest will attract top scientists, the best institutions, and big grant money dollars - peoples' theories will certainly be put to more rigorous tests than ever before. Which is a good thing and will lead to better knowledge. Certainly we'll have a better idea of what does and doesn't hold up.

Posted by: justin case at July 19, 2007 2:41 PM


Crid,

Like I said much earlier on drawbacks of certain lifestyle choices. The responsibility that always accompanies certain individual choices. The real American religion is living a life without taking a proper accounting of the consequences of certain forms of behavior.

If someone decides to use a Hummer... don't be surprised that a sitting governor will endorse a SUV tax on state highway re-construction or the volume of gas consumption that a particular noncommercial vehicle class takes in more than others.

Now will SUV owners decry persecution and become potential human interest stories on the local news at 6?

Posted by: Joe at July 19, 2007 3:06 PM

"Well, of course not, that's not their religion! What they shove down kids' throats is the enviromentalist screed."

Which is basically dont consume so much shit, nucleaur power bad, dont cut down the rain forests....stuff that at the end of the day isnt going to alter your fundemantal understanding of science. Nobody is disputing that their hearts are in the right place but their solutions are naive. Hell feminism is more powerful than any enviro theology and at the end of the day? So what? A smart teen girl might think there is a glass ceiling because that's what her social studies teacher taught her but that aint going to stop her from busting her ass to get on top. But you know what? Believing that abstinence works, creationism is as valid as evolution, stem cells research is the 'work of the devil', I mean how are we going to get any top scientists like that?

Posted by: PurplePen at July 19, 2007 3:09 PM

The real American religion is living a life without taking a proper accounting of the consequences of certain forms of behavior.

Joe's right.

And Hummers do not belong on residential streets, as they are too heavy...yet who's stopping them?

Furthermore, as for nuclear power, I'm all for it. And say so pretty regularly.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 19, 2007 3:37 PM

Which is basically dont consume so much shit, nucleaur power bad, dont cut down the rain forests

As well as owls are more important than people, frogs are more important than people, all supported by a million real-life actions that genuinely harm and devalue human beings.

Believing that abstinence works, creationism is as valid as evolution, stem cells research is the 'work of the devil', I mean how are we going to get any top scientists like that?

I don't see what any of this has to do with prducing scientists. Are you saying that if someone believes that abstinence before marriage is a good thing he can't be a physicist, or chemist, or climatologist, or biologist? Why ever not? Same for the others. One's beliefs on how the universe came into existence have absolutely no bearing on his understanding of its laws. As for opposition to stem-cells, that's an ethical issue, of whether their use will lead to the devaluation of human life through "farming" of embryos for their cells. You may feel that's a non-issue, but in fact, science unburdened by ethical considerations can do tremendous harm, which should not be news to any sentient adult.

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 4:11 PM

Justin, I believe you commented above (too lazy to look for it now) to the effect of denial of evolution undermining current science, since most of our knowledge of biology depends on evolution. Correct me if I'm wrong, but dosn't that refer to micro-evolution, in which a particular species will exhibit a non-fundamental change in response to some change in its enviroment? (like the moths in Birmingham turning from white to black.) Are you actually saying that macro-evolution (meaning, evolution of a species to a fundamentally different species) is a mainstay of cutting-edge biological research? And if it's not, what bearing could its acceptance possibly have on producing scientists?

Posted by: kishke at July 19, 2007 4:21 PM

> If someone decides to use a
> Hummer... don't be surprised
> that a sitting governor will
> endorse a SUV tax

I've twice run into Schwartzenegger on the street in Santa Monica. The first time, he was climbing into an SUV. First one I ever saw.

Posted by: Crid at July 19, 2007 10:49 PM

Whoops, first HUMMER I ever saw.

(Perfectly good celebrity enounter, and I bungled the telling.)

Posted by: Crid at July 19, 2007 10:53 PM

> The real American religion is
> living a life without taking
> a proper accounting of the
> consequences of certain forms
> of behavior.

> Joe's right.

You guys don't contend that this discourtesy (which is all it is) is a distinctly American problem, do you?

Posted by: Crid at July 19, 2007 11:07 PM

The real American religion is living a life without taking a proper accounting of the consequences of certain forms of behavior.

It's hardly possible to do otherwise. What accounting do you tdo before you take a dump? That's a quick example, but it's not silly: do you consider the capital cost of the installation? The mining of the clay, the transport, the processing? How the water gets to the cistern? Is it grey water, or drinking water? Where does it all go? How is it processed?

The point is, any action has implications that reach out in all directions. If you have to consider them before you act, you'll never act.

The solution - and I think it IS a solution - is to make your decisions on an economic basis. Do what you want, provided you pay for it. That way you only have to consider local issues: how much cash you have, and how much you want to spend. (A penny, presumably, in this example.) Money is the measure of value; provided the value of of your purchases are established accurately, you'll make sensible decisions, and so will the population en masse. That's not a claim for central price control either - the free market works better. But we can't go on treating all resources as if they were free.

Posted by: Norman at July 20, 2007 4:37 AM

"Are you saying that if someone believes that abstinence before marriage is a good thing he can't be a physicist, or chemist, or climatologist, or biologist?"

Smallish - but important - point, kishke.

Purple Pen said nothing about the goodness of abstinence.

She only suggested we don't see overwhelming, rational evidence that it works (presumably as practical one-trick-solves-all advice for horny teens).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 20, 2007 6:56 AM

Jody, she actually wasn't clear about what she meant, so I just guessed. But whichever, it's silly to say that holding a doubtful view on abstinence disqualifies a person from doing science.

Posted by: kishke at July 20, 2007 7:03 AM

Fair response, kishke.

I was definitely extending Purple Pen's line - and I do know some brilliant rational thinkers with non-rational soft spots in their brains!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 20, 2007 7:22 AM

"Apparently there is a bill being considered in Congress that will allow the Justice department to treat OPEC like any other cartel that fixes prices."

When you find an American law that applies outside of America, let me know. This is just another attempt to displace blame.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 20, 2007 7:35 AM

Thank you Jody.

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