I went at the crack of dawn this morning to Starbucks to hang some of my photos for a little show I’m having and I listened to NPR news on the drive back home. Actually, it wasn’t the crack of dawn, I slept right through that because I don’t use an alarm clock. The rain, jabbing persistently and vehemently on my roof, awakened me to a dark, dreary, milky-grayish light that informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I was standing on the platform watching the train carrying the crack of dawn fade off into the sunrise (if there had been any, which there wasn’t).
Oh that felt good to write, like a nice long, dog-like stretch after a good night’s sleep. But I am not here to wax poetic. Nor am I here to wax the furniture. Or your car, for that matter. I’m here to try to write something amusing. NPR was telling us about the BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This is not in any way, shape, or form amusing. My heart goes out to the millions of fish and fowl that will lose their lives as a result of this tragedy, as well as the millions of people who will lose their livelihoods.
I will try, however, to write something humorous about the oil companies, which some might say is no laughing matter either, but I have to write SOMETHING. The story this morning on NPR was about oil companies scrambling to avoid expensive safety regulation that is sure to be the government’s way of slapping them for being naughty and having yet another massive oil spill. I was grumbling about “those stupid oil companies” when I realized I was, in fact, at that very moment, driving a vehicle that depended on oil to operate (albeit only SOME oil because it is a hybrid which can go two to fifty times farther on a tank of gas than the average car on the road today, not that I’m trying to rub your nose in it).
Then it occurred to me that I would drive a non-oil based car if someone would make one and give me convenient places to re-charge or re-fuel it. I’m going to hear from people in California saying that, in fact, GM made a prototype electric car 20 years ago that ran great and everyone loved, but when the executives at GM met with the executives at BIG OIL (BO) – apt initials, aren’t they? – they decided, after much head and crotch scratching, that it would be in their best interests to NOT have people LOVING the EV1 (their electric vehicle) because it would put all their service departments out of business (electric cars don’t need oil changes), not to mention oil refineries, gas stations, Lava soap and similar products to get mechanics’ hands clean right down to the fingernails, and a plethora of other industries that depend on oil for the lifeblood of their bottom line.
These scratching executives decided that a certain California legislator who had the power to throw out the clean air standards probably had an itch as well, and so they all reached into each other’s pockets and scratched until they were all satisfied that in the end, their mutual bottom line was far, far more important than clean air or, for that matter, innovation, Yankee ingenuity, state of the art technology, or a really cool vision for the future.
These executives snatched back all the EV1’s (they were on loan to 400 consumers to try out), and they crushed them into a mass of metal you could fit into the palm of your hand (although it weighed 8 trillion tons) in order to remove all trace of the vehicles. Instead, they started pushing Hummers (army vehicles seen in old WWII movies), which take two parking spaces and get -4 miles per gallon, and, coincidentally, you can buy from GM.
Small world, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, other companies with Yankee ingenuity (that happened to all be in Asia) started making electric cars and hybrids. These soon became the world’s most popular vehicles. GM responded by building bigger and bigger SUVs and, in a miracle of marketing, sold them because they convinced the general public (who also has the word “general” in their name – it really IS a small world) that their toddlers would not be safe in any car except one that gets single-digit fuel economy.
This marketing strategy worked so well that now it is nearly impossible to find a parking space because, to be safe, these vehicles also need to have one wheel over the line on both sides so that only cars with the dimensions of a two by four can fit in there.
If we fast-forward to the present, we see GM crawling to the Government and grabbing millions of dollars in bailout money with that very same hand that was scratching oil companies and legislators not so long ago.
What has this got to do with the Gulf of Mexico? I would explain it, but I’ve run over my word limit. I apologize for leaving you to scratch your head and figure it out on your own.