The First Die-off
by James Howard Kunstler
This is an excerpt from a longer article posted mid-August on http://www.kunstler.com
FOR THOSE OF YOU ALREADY acquainted with some of the classic “doomer” themes, one of the first “die-offs” of The Long Emergency will not be one of human beings but of our beloved automobiles. Personally, I think the car die-off will come on with stunning rapidity as a combination of factors merge to make these colossal traffic jams staples of nostalgia in decades to come. As usual, the public is clueless about this, gulled by a cretinous news media into the earnest expectation of endless techno-miracles.
The funniest of these lately are the glad tidings from (“The New” ) General Motors. They came out last week with a laughable hype-fest for their proposed electric car, the “Volt,” scheduled to arrive in the showrooms around 2011 (about the same time that all the mortgage-backed-securities sitting in Wall Street’s vaults melt into a monumental puddle of radioactive goo).
We’re told the Volt will get the equivalent of over 200 miles-per-gallon, at less than 25 cents a charge from the plug on your garage wall, blah blah. They estimate that it’ll cost about $40,000. Do we detect a little problem right there?
Like, the whole adult US population is going to rush out and buy new cars priced the same as today’s Mercedes Benz? Good luck with that, GM, especially when money for car loans will be about as easy to get as a royal flush in online poker. And good luck with changing out the battery for ten grand a couple of years down the road, so to speak. And good luck also with your expectation that the roads and bridges will remain drivable in the years ahead, as every municipality, and county, and state slides into bankruptcy and the paving machines sit rusting in the DOT marshaling yards.
What is wrong with our brains? Are they turning to yeast? And even if it were possible to continue torturing ourselves in three-hour traffic jams, is that something we would want to do?
I’m serenely confident that we’re in the twilight of Happy Motoring now. Without debt service there is no auto industry, and we’re toast where debt service is concerned. All we can do now is give cars away, or give US citizens free money to buy them – which we are obviously already doing with “Cash for Clunkers” – which is additionally hilarious in the same nation that is deeply paranoid about the government giving anybody free health care. What a nation of morons we have become.
Then, of course, there is the political problem that nobody is thinking about, namely, what happens when a substantial portion of the public is permanently foreclosed from motoring because they’ve lost jobs and incomes and positions and vocations that they will never get back? Do you think they’ll just hike down the breakdown lanes with colorful bundles on their heads like the impoverished folk in other lands? Or will they put all those home arsenals to work? I can’t wait to find out.