Oil Crisis and the Conservative Revolution

I guess if I have to pick one person to blame for our current energy crisis, it would have to be Newt Gingrich. One of his first acts in taking control of Congress after the Conservative Revolution of 1994 was to pass a rider on the Transportation appropriations bills. As the Times reports.

Congressional Republicans made matters worse in 1995, when they attached a rider to a huge appropriations bill forbidding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from spending any money to raise fuel standards. That law, in effect until 2001, made any change in CAFE standards impossible, says Representativeve Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has pushed for better fuel efficiency.

Now Gingrich refuses to admit he did anything wrong, because, “our culture favors driving long distances in powerful vehicles and the car as a social expression.” Not that Gingrich is the only brain-dead pseudo-psychologist on Capitol Hill. Here’s John Dingell who has faithfully protected his Auto Company constituents for 30 years.

“The American auto industry has sold the cars people wanted,” he says. “You’re going to blame the auto industry for that or the American consumer? He likes it sitting in his driveway, he likes it big, he likes it safe.”

So all of this head in the sand stupidity will have to change. Our fuel standards will have to climb like the rest of the world (see chart). The simplest way is to charge a gasoline tax like most other developed countries. But that’s not the end of the American way of life, as the head of Shell Oil makes clear.

Consumers overseas might not like higher taxes on gasoline, but they’ve adapted, says Jeroen van derVeer, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, the European energy giant. “A society can work, can function and can grow even at higher fuel prices,” he says. “It’s a way of life — you get used to it.”

In Mr. van derVeer’s native Holland, for example, gasoline sells for more than $10 a gallon, with $5.57 of that going to taxes. Even in Britain, which has substantial North Sea production, gasoline sells for $8.71 a gallon.

We will get through this Interregnum. It will be more painful that most politicians are letting on. But the creativity of America should not be doubted. In the meantime we can buy the new energy conservation technology from Japan, who started getting their energy act together 30 years ago.

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0 Responses to Oil Crisis and the Conservative Revolution

  1. Rick Turner says:

    Whenever I go past oil fields or refineries I see the flames of burning off gasses. WTF? Or how about industrial “waste heat”? WTF?

    CAFE standards & Newt. Boy, there’s a weird connection. And the industrial psychology of all that…what’s different from saying that junkies want heroin, so it must be good for them?

    The thing about Europe is that the distances are not so great…it’s not like it is here. And public transportation never got sabotaged as it did here, thereby causing the growth of an automobile dependent suburban infrastructure that simply has to change if we are to get away from automobiles as our primary transportation medium. We can adapt, though, and it’s plug-in hybrids that will do it whether the non-electric part of that is gas, diesel, hydrogen, or a bio-fuel. We’re a long way from 400 mile batteries…unless there’s a real breakthrough with super-capacitors…but plug-in hybrids are already here; they’re just too expensive.

  2. Rachel says:

    John Dingell’s comment would be funny if it wasn’t also fundamentally misleading. American cars have never been particularly safe: the Germans and Swedes consistently outperform them on that measure.

    Malcolm Gladwell’s take on SUV’s is still a good read: http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html

  3. Kevin says:

    This is a classic issue with American businesses these days. All they care about is next months bottom line.

    So yes, they sold the cars Americans wanted, but they gave absolutely no thought to what if Americans change their mind. American car companies were caught off guard and unprepared because of their own stupidity.

  4. Rick Turner says:

    American car companies bought into the Talledega Nights, NASCAR bullshit. They promoted the idea that a guy’s dick was represented by what was under the hood of the car. Pandering, it’s called, and yeah, the bubbas as well as the yuppie gents all bought into it. Then there was the paranoia of the soccer moms to exploit; bigger is safer, even if it isn’t. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing quite like the sight of my former bookkeeper…all 135 pounds of her…showing up to work in a bright yellow Hummer to make me wonder… She and her husband are wondering now…

  5. Ken Ballweg says:

    Just a side notion; where will all those discarded SUVs and Trucks end up when people trade them in for better milage? I’m trying to think what happened to all the big steel in the 70’s after the Arab Oil Embargo. For some reason I’m stuck with the notion that a lot of them ended up in Cuba, but I think that’s an illusion created by the ban on exports.

    What type of people ended up with the big Chryslers and Chevey’s when gas economy became an issue back then?

    Where does the Hummer Elephant graveyard?

  6. Ken Ballweg says:

    Opps, that’s “Where is the Hummer…”

  7. Rachel says:

    Ken, I have to admit my secret, secret shame. I *love* huge American cars from the 1970s. My ex had a gigantic 1972 Ford Gran something – roughly the size of a small aircraft carrier, bad brakes, no handling, no rear visibility, ENORMOUS engine. I believe it was akin to the vehicle Michael Douglas tooled around in back in “The Streets of San Francisco”. Or maybe that was Starsky or Hutch or something. Whatever. He only ever drove it to and from the station at Southampton from his parents house out there, since he couldn’t afford to own a car in the city.

    I loved that car, completely ridiculous though it was, but probably only because I associate it with youth and warm nights near the beach. God only knows how few miles per gallon the thing got. But it was almost bigger than his kitchen in the apartment on E93rd st.

    Anyways, the thing was, he bought it for about $500 when he was in college, and since he drove it so seldom, it lasted, and lasted, even after the floor rusted out. It was grandfathered against emissions tests. I don’t actually know what killed it, but last time I saw him he didn’t have it any more – he’d replaced it with a 90-something Volkswagen.

    So I guess it was students that bought those old guzzlers.

    I can see, soon, my grandchildren shuffling away as I talk about the grand old days I had as a girl. But there was one thing to be said for those vehicles – you could cuddle in them.

  8. Dan says:

    “our culture favors driving long distances in powerful vehicles and the car as a social expression.”

    There it is in a nutshell. That reminds me of Ari Fleischer saying, in response to a question about raising fuel efficiency standards, “That’s a big no. The President feels that our way of life [driving hulking gas guzzlers] is a blessed way of life.”

    God wants us to get 9 miles per gallon.

    With thinking like that, it’s no surprise that we’re in the mess we’re in.

  9. Ken Ballweg says:

    To this administration, God is an oil baron.

  10. BobbyG says:

    Regarding the U.S. – EU comparative nominal per gallon (or litre) price of motoring petrol, it’s also instructive to recall that when Bu’ush “took” office in January 2001 you could buy a Euro for 94 cents. Today it’s $1.58. So, our European friends, while, yes, seeing higher fuel prices in absolute real terms, are not experiencing the “sticker shock” we think they are.

  11. The Times story is great, but it doesn’t put the finger on the biggest offender…….Mr. and Mrs. America, who elected the morons and insisted on a lifestyle where you are a loser with a small penis if you don’t drive a giant SUV a long distance to work. We chose this unsustainable lifestyle, and it is crazy to expect our gutless politicians to have saved us from ourselves at the cost of their re-election.

  12. Rick Turner says:

    We chose a lifestyle that was promoted by the most savvy psychologists the advertising industry could pay and that Detroit could hire. There has been a form of brain washing going on for decades that has made Mr. & Mrs. America think only in terms of choices between consumerist excesses. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the intellectuals of Harvard Square and Berkeley and then all the hippies started buying Volvos and VW bugs that you saw a reaction against tail fins and gas guzzling. Then you saw the BMW 2002’s, Hondas, and Toyotas coming into California in the ’70’s and ’80’s, and still Detroit wanted to be free to make huge cars on truck platforms that got them out from under any kind of reasonable fuel consumption standards. Then you get National Geographic coming every month, and you get to see how the poor people live… And now we’re headed that way, too…

  13. Dan says:

    And I think that, way, way down inside, what really drives Dick Cheney is his burning hatred for hippies and everything they believed. He wasn’t about to get his own precious ass shot off in Vietnam, but he was infuriated that anyone would question the carnage for the hoi polloi.

    Eternal war for the hoi polloi combined with no-bid contracts for his tycoon buddies about sums up his philosophy.

    I hope that he, like Helms, lives long enough to see his cold, dead fingers pried away from his dream. It would be pleasant to contemplate a world in which everyone outside of his own shrunken, sycophantic inner circle excoriates him.

  14. Jon Taplin says:

    Rick T. -You about sum it up for me. But that brainwashed mentality will dissapear when the people want something of more modest means. My guess is that GM will just start importing it’s small cars. Ford will do the same. Chrysler will die a slow death and be sold for the curiosity value.

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