Whether muddled or not as the websites below suggest, the assertion that ‘What is good for General Motors is good for the country!’ is emblematic of the decisions made during the course of the 20th century that have gotten us into the energy crisis over oil that we now face.



Once upon a time (as have European countries now) the U.S. had developed a network of train lines and embryonic trolley and subway systems such as only a few cities now have. The advantages of travel by rail are twofold: 1) trains can carry more goods and people far more efficiently than busses, cars, trucks, 2) trains can be run with electricity which can be produced from a wide variety of energy sources — water, coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear. So when the crunch comes for energy, a nation is not simply hostage to a single energy source — in our case oil.

How did we get into this fix As I recall the details, the oil and truck, bus, car, rubber industries early in the 20th century began lobbying for the transfer of transportation from our then expanding rail system to roads. Local city councils were prevailed upon to abandon trolleys for busses. Later increasing numbers of super highways would be built to accommodate truck traffic across the country (at a hidden cost to states obliged to maintain highways in the face of heavy on-going damage caused by being pounded by trucks).

A number of private industries had combined to push us towards oil as our major energy sources for moving things and people. No longer can one take a train across the country with any ease — no Twentieth Century Limited — the air industry has also got its piece of the action. Some local communities are even being cut off from ANY public transportation because such is not profitable for private carriers!
We subsidize trucks and cars heavily, but not rail travel.

The sad bottom line here is that our American expansion outwards now stands in peril as the costs of individual living out there increase — both getting there and controlling temperatures house by house.

Those of us who happen to live in a major city with efficient public transportation save thousands of dollars each year that we do not have to pay for travel and for heating our homes. We live in large buildings with a single boiler. We do need to use air conditioners to cool things down. But many of us can do without the expenses of owning cars — on the insurance payments saved alone we can rent cars for vacations at long term rates. take a cab or hop on a bus or subway which often gets us there faster than would a car through increasing traffic jams.

We are stuck now with the incredibly energy inefficient decisions made by previous generations. Where we can go from here, I cannot say. Presumably the energy bidding against the expanding Chinese and Indian economies (representing 2/5 of humanity) will be tough. And we seem to be hopelessly mired in the Middle East chaos where the Neocons apparently assumed we could grab the oil away from those who owned it and/or competing bidders.

I suspect that we are going to be in for some colder winters as well as hotter summers as we reap the energy whirlwinds. Better stick something on your roof to collect the wind power there or some such energy producing alternative. Good luck. We gave up a car 3 decades back and enjoy the 4 bus lines and subway running within two within short blocks of our doors. And co-op costs are just those for running things — no big profits being made except by our banks holding our mortgages.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

Be Sociable, Share!