04 July 2005

Dubya vs. The World, Part II

This is a continuation of discussion from my post earlier today. Even after millions of people came together and made a plea through the Live 8 concerts and related activities, Bush is not moved. In particular, he has absolutely no interest in working with anything resembling the Kyoto Protocol, saying that the American economy would be destroyed in the process. This aspect will be my topic in this post.

Bush says that new technologies, not conservation, would be the solution to decreasing America's contribution to global pollution. Sounds great, except for one thing: instead of focusing on exotic new technologies that would not take effect until a long way into the future, possibly too late, the focus also needs to be on more modest technologies that will, again, decrease consumption of energy - right now. In other words, instead of focusing on exotic, expensive, and difficult hydrogen cars, pay attention to the more immediate gasoline-electric hybrid cars as well.

One reason that he is not interested in immediate conservation - at least during his term - is that he is supported by the energy industry and the automotive industry. All oil companies (including Shell, contrary to some reports), most automotive suppliers including Goodyear and other tire companies, as well as GM and Ford, are major Bush supporters and contributors. The administration's "poorest" member, Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, has a Chevron tanker named after her. And these companies stand to gain the most if America continues to consume petroleum products at the current, unsustainable rate, and if it continues to buy those oversized Hummers and Ford Excursions. Honestly I don't see much point in driving a Hummer, other than intimidating drivers of small imports, and intimidation is not a virtue on civilian highways.

Sure, Ford is making the Escape Hybrid. But it is about as convincing as a greedy pharmaceutical company pretending to give away drug patents to Third World countries for free. In fact, American car companies have stopped innovating; they just want Bush to keep the market favorable for gas-guzzling large SUVs, instead of designing cars people want to buy. No wonder Americans now look overseas for decent cars, and increasingly trucks as well. Just 20 to 30 years ago America was still capable of making good cars, like the Oldsmobile Cutlass and the Ford Taurus. Now the Olds nameplate is history, and Ford is about to retire the Taurus after letting it stagnate for years - and blaming the assembly line workers whenever a design-related defect comes up. What a shame, considering that in those same 20 years, South Korea's Hyundai, for example, went from making crappy cars in miserable sweatshops using leftover Japanese parts, to making good cars Americans actually want to drive. I just test-drove Hyundai's newest Sonata a few days ago, and I thought it was superior to any Ford I have ever driven (and when I say Ford, I mean Lincoln and Mercury as well).

Speaking of the automotive industry, the outsourcing bug has hit them as well. GM and Ford have decided that it would be better to re-design their European products for the American market than to keep American engineers busy. The results are such cars as Saturn L-Series, Ford Contour, and Ford Focus. I've been driving a Contour since 1999, and while its European background makes it a better handler than most American cars, its engineering is no BMW, cutting corners just about everywhere. In fact it's positively the worst car I, or anyone I know, have ever driven. Dealer service is even worse, because those Ford dealers are too busy pandering to the SUV owners.

So this is the point. Bush's refusal to conserve, combined with the oil and auto industries' complicity, are a disaster for the American public. We will breathe ever-dirtier air and drink contaminated water. In addition, our refusal to support such environmental accords as the Kyoto Protocol will leave a permanent black mark on America's image in the minds of people worldwide. And on this Independence Day, the industries and Bush's policies are making Americans ever more dependent on either foreign oil or foreign cars. Even as Bush claims to lead us into fighting the war on terror, the Saudi terror breeding grounds continue to get valuable American dollars as Americans continue to increase their appetite for Saudi oil. The Saudis, with their religious fundamentalism, appalling human rights record, and primitive legal system, do not deserve to be our friends.