Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Oh Mark...the single voice in the chaos that I can relate to...

Die Die SUVs Please Die Sales of the bloated monster trucks are in a huge slump. Time for enviro-lovers to rejoice?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

You hear that? That cheering and rejoicing and heavy exhausted sighing? Why, it's coming from the massively fatigued Prius-happy enviro-green set and it's all about the fact that sales of huge bloated oil-belchin' SUVs are in a major free-fall, down nearly 20 percent for the year and dropping faster than Jenna Bush can slam a bottle of Cuervo.
Can we all just wave our Greenpeace flags high and scream an I-told-you-so and go spank an Expedition driver and be glad for that? Can I get a "Hell yeah"?
Because indeed, it's the kind of minor but still gratifying news you want to sort of dowse yourself in rub all over your progressive brain and inject into your withered Bush-bashed spirit and say ahh, finally, finally people are coming to their senses and finally the world is waking up and finally some enlightenment is peeking through.
This is the hope. Finally people are understanding just how inane and dangerous and pollutive and just plain stupid these vehicles so very much are, and maybe, just maybe, there is a tiny bit of hope that the planet can finally begin to exhale and unclench and we can finally begin to progress, to move toward something akin to health and compassion instead of this painful devolution and isn't that all happy sounding and positive? Aren't good things imminent and abounding?
And yet, no. Because just as these very shining and positive thoughts escape your brain like some sort of happy pink mist, still you are gnawed, as always, deep down. Still the other, less gullible, less perky voices in your head kick back with a six-pack of Skyy Blue and a boxed set of Jenna Jameson DVDs and a deep obvious roll of the eyes and say, yeah right, not so fast, sucker.
This is the funny thing about this sort of good news -- it usually just isn't all that good. This is when you gotta sit up and take the medicine. This is when you gotta get slapped in the face with cold hard dumbass 'Murkin reality.
Because the truth is, SUV sales are down not because people are becoming more politically aware and not necessarily because people are finally becoming more environmentally attuned and not because the population as a whole is finally realizing how BushCo has dragged us into a violent hellpit of screaming oily economy-gutted warmongering inarticulate debt. Wishful thinking, sweetheart.
And it's certainly not because everyone suddenly realized the oil-soaked Saudis are just as bad as the Taliban and we should be investigating alternative fuels and rediscovering the joys of riding bikes and walking to work, and while we're at it let's all examine our souls and examine our motives and examine just what the hell it is we in this country think we're doing by being the most gluttonous, environmentally devastating resource-abusin' landmass on the entire hobbled whirling sphere. All this is but a fraction of the explanation.
Nope, SUV sales are down for one reason and one reason only: high gas prices. SUV sales are down because when it costs upward of a hundred bucks to fill up your shiny clunky chrome-rimmed uber-bloated Escalade so you can burn donuts in the Wal-Mart parking lot for two hours on Friday night, dude, well, your sister's Dodge Neon suddenly looks like a worthy alternative. Even in Texas.
Optimism, this ain't. I wish I could say that the Prius-led revolution is at hand, that signs are increasingly resplendent of a massive war-weary cultural awakening, but of course I'm afraid the proof is just all too obvious that we just ain't all that nimble of spirit or that interesting a species and we just ain't that enlightened as a collective brain. Not yet, anyway.
Truth is, if gas prices were to suddenly drop to a buck fifty again and stay there for a few months, why, SUV sales would jump right back up. This has been proven. This has happened before. Hell, even the gas-starved Europeans indicated in a big poll a while back that if a gallon of Euro petrol suddenly dropped from five bucks to one, they'd be all over the big-bloated-American-car thing faster than Lynne Cheney on bad lesbian prose.
It's all real simple: When resources are cheap and plentiful, we gorge, we indulge, we stop caring. About repercussions, about the environmental, socioeconomic, spiritual or karmic costs of our behavior. Ditto the CEOs, the corporations that feed our gluttony -- they go for profit uber alles, even if it means massive economic abuse, backhanded politicking or war. It's just the way of the species.
However, when resources get scarce and expensive, we pay attention. We get scared. For our wallets. For our excessive habits. This is America, beeyatch: Fear and money are the only things that really trigger us. We respond only to crisis, change our behavior only when absolutely forced to, or because the GOP has pumped the nation full of bogus fear. Same as it ever was.
See, it's not really about raised consciousness. Not yet, anyway. It's not about a deep concern for how we treat the air, the planet, each other. By and large, we don't seem to give much of a damn for the fact that SUVs roll and pollute and stomp the Earth like Karl Rove stomps live kittens, not to mention how they endanger your family's life, and every other passenger in every other car you can't successfully swerve around in an emergency. After all, it's all about the illusion of safety and machismo, baby. Who cares if it's actually true?
And besides, SUVs aren't exactly going away. They're simply morphing into the new breed of crossover vehicles, essentially jacked-up trucklike cars on steroids, and one look at the upcoming manufacturing forecast from any automaker proves that, save for a handful of hybrid models, not a single automaker is eagerly rolling out a new fleet of small, sexy, environmentally friendly, gas-frugal vehicles.
And why? Why don't automakers care? Because they don't have to. Not yet. Despite amazing new engine technologies, automakers haven't cared to improve MPG ratings for over 20 years, thanks in large part to the GOP yanking away all incentive or pressure for them to do so and essentially giving them carte blanche to gouge and pollute however the hell they want. Not to mention how the EPA's MPG ratings for most cars are, quite simply, way off.
So then, let us celebrate the death of these silly monster tanks with only mild, muffled cheers, aimed mostly at those cute pseudo-macho hellbeasts driven by myopic jingoist love bunnies who stick little 'Murkin flags on the back of these 8-mpg Ford Excursions and call it patriotism.
Because the good news is, as long as gas prices stay up -- and verily, they could be way up, forevermore -- huge numbers of the biggest of the dumb trucks will be sitting on the lots, unsold. But bad news is, the sad, misinformed, aggro attitude that spawned them has yet to shift much more than an inch.