FROM CHAOS COMES OPPORTUNITY
by Rick Carlton - The Auto Channel
“Chaos is a friend of mine.” - Bob Dylan,
The domestic economy is in the tank. American auto companies are about to founder like the Titanic. Company layoffs and bankruptcies are picking up speed across the nation. States like New York and California are about to tax the air itself, and no one can get a loan unless one is the Pope (maybe). So what's positive about the future? Well, it's the fact that OPEC is taking a hit it in their collective bullocks, giving us a chance to change our automotive energy focus away from Middle Eastern oil, to something we can produce and manage ourselves.
As reported, OPEC decided to cut production two days ago in an attempt to raise the price of a barrel of oil and guess what, nobody gave a damn - as a matter of fact the announcement caused the price to drop further. While there are a number of factors that lead to reduced global oil demand between July and now, the one that I find most satisfying is the fact that Americans have arbitrarily chosen to stop buying gas in favor of other processes, and this "quiet time" has now created an opportunity to seriously re-direct our energy focus away from oil, to alternative systems that power cars in addition to, well, everything else. Until now, any serious action has been obstructed by the politics of big oil, big industrial money, and the perception that all alternative concepts must be propagated by wild-eyed, UFO-chasing, tree-huggers; but times do change (finally).
Today we have the opportunity to drive plug-in sports cars and motorcycles, CNG-based vehicles, (that can cost the owner as low as $0.80 cents per gallon), bio-diesel powered trucks, sedans, and even race cars. The problem, however, is consolidating the currently fragmented industry on the basis of a national mandate, rather than allowing small alternative manufacturers to trundle along, while hoping for a tidal wave of commitment to hit the beach. Unfortunately, given a history of greedy and weak-kneed industrial leaders, along with thirty years worth of inept politicians, the larger issue remains.
As I mentioned in one of my earlier op-ed's, I recounted that America put a man on the moon in eight years, and that effort generated a host of new technical concepts, designs, industries, and an expanded workforce. In that era, cheap oil, produced and refined by America, drove that growth. But between then and now, we've clearly lost our way, and today we're entirely beholdin' to people who "...don't like us much." As a country we should say "screw you," to anybody who wears a Keffiyeh (Arab head scarf), speaks Russian, or Venezuelan, and wants to keep America behind our own energy power curve. All we have to do is make up our minds - the rest will be easy.
As an epilogue: The boneheads in Washington finally got their collective heads out of the up and locked position today, by offering a $17.4 billion bridge loan to the Big Three. Regardless of the political rhetoric, the decision was well taken, to avoid finding America's auto workforce standing in line at the soup kitchen. So, ups to George - you done good.