Apr 7, 2009
Read a fantastic article yesterday penned by former CIA analyst Tom Whipple. In it he looks at the current state of the American auto industry and the very real impact of peak oil.
The most salient point is this:
In the next few years, oil prices are going up so high that ownership and use of the automobiles and trucks in their present form will be a totally uneconomic proposition. How many of the current flavor of cars and trucks is Detroit going to sell with gasoline at $10 a gallon or higher?
The U.S. already has some 250 million 2-axle motor vehicles (cars, light trucks, vans) running around and sitting in traffic jams (and only 200 million licensed drivers). With some tender care and adequate spare parts, this inventory easily could be useful for another 20 or 30 years considering how much less they are going to be driven once gas prices go up. Even the most optimistic do not see how there will be much oil around for powering private cars 25 years from now.
When one considers that we already have in operation more than enough cars and trucks with low mileage internal combustion engines to last us through the rest of the oil age, the only logical thing to do is to stop making more. That’s right — stop building and selling anything that consumes liquid fuels at anywhere near the rate consumed by our current fleet of vehicles.
Ties in nicely with the point I made two weeks ago in Sexy Old Mercs, Brand Building and Platform 21’s Repair Manifesto doesn’t it?
Tom goes on to discuss what Detroit should be doing to secure it’s medium and long-term future, acknowledging the phenomenal negative impact that the complete collapse of the American car industry would have on the economy, not to mention the America psyche.
Essentially he advocates an almost immediate halt in the production of vehicles getting less than 30mpg, much stricter (read 100 mpg) economy standards and the transition of the massive government fleets to natural gas. He also discusses the conversion of the existing passenger car fleet to at least partial electric power.
I must admit that this last point seems like a lot of ball ache for only a small improvement (this also happens to be my long-term view of production hybrids although I recognise their important transitional role). Surely a subsidised electric conversion programme would be a better bet? Especially if I could get my hands on one of these.
Happily, at no point does he discuss scrapping perfectly good cars that only need a little helping hand to keep them running in a more appropriate fashion.
Anyway, enough from me. It’s a great, well balanced article that’s well worth five minutes of your time.