More Than A Third of US Energy Spent on Transportation

carflip This chart from the 2009 Statistical Abstract of the United States shows that 28.6 percent of U.S.energy use happens in transportation.  That figure, of course, includes only the fuels we burn while operating our transportation equipment.

What about the energy it takes to manufacture and maintain both that equipment and the spaces and surfaces over which it gets operated?

That further energy burn has to be counted against transportation, too.  Undoubtedly, some serious chunk of the 31.8 percent of total annual energy use that gets spent in what remains of the U.S. industrial sector goes into making and servicing cars and roads.

Hence, it is very safe to say we are now spending well over a third of our total energy use — which is itself over a fifth of total world energy use, and double the per capita amount spent in all other OECD countries except Canada — on transportation alone.

And, of course, automobiles account for the lion’s share of that.

If this arrangement isn’t unsustainable, nothing is.

The Addicts Speak…

As I will explain in my forthcoming book, Automobiles Über Alles: Capitalism and Transportation in the United States, no topic is more forbidden to public utterance than corporate capitalists’ intractable collective addiction to selling cars.  Despite the increasingly obvious suicidal insanity of permitting this addiction to continue, even its mere existence still cannot be mentioned in public.

If you doubt this, check out the latest dog-and-pony show conducted in the U.S. Congress: the June 23, 2008 House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing called “Energy Speculation: Is Greater Regulation Necessary to Stop Price Manipulation? – Part II.”

What did the two wings of the Business Party have to say in this bit of theater?

The R wing, mostly unabashed about its service to the overclass (major exception: its “social conservative” marketing operations targeting scared white commoners), admits “America [exactly what part of “America” we don’t say, of course] is addicted to oil” while seeking to lay hands on more of the substance of choice: “We” need to drill more and prod “our” allies, like the gang-rape-victim-jailing Saudi “royal” family, to pump us more of the good stuff.

Then we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK…

See?

More interesting and, as always, much less honest is the D faction of the Business Party. What is its way of avoiding the Carmageddon issue on behalf of the choosing class?

Well, for starters, where would you guess, if the D Team really were an opposition party, the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce might come from? California? Seattle? Portland or Eugene, Oregon? Madison, Wisconsin? Or some other hotbed of ecology, right?

But from whence does the actually existing Energy Chair arise? Why, Detroit, of course!

And what does the Honorable Motor City representative have to say about why “America is addicted to oil”? It’s not really a problem of demand, of course:

The environmental community says the answer is to conserve energy, to change the way we live, work, and play.

Well, that’s:

a valid point.

But it isn’t any part of the business of Congress, since the structure of demand is just one of many:

long-term solutions that will likely take at least 10 years; they will do little to solve the immediate problem we face.

In reality, the urgent business of Congress, this fine D-bot Chair says, is not to raise the issue of why we’re addicts.  No, it is to start by observing:

The Saudis note that oil supply-and-demand seem to be in balance and that there is no substantive basis for current prices.

Got that? “There is no substantive basis for current prices” of petroleum!  We have no underlying problem!

So what is the trouble we face?

Even the Department of Energy’s own Energy Information Administration says that “the flow of investment money” has contributed to the spike in oil prices. Yet the Secretary of Energy dismisses speculation as a cause of spiking oil prices and the Treasury Secretary agrees, shrugging it off as a “tough period.” In short, real solutions from this Administration are harder to find than a $3 gallon of gas.

See? See? It’s just the dealers, man! They’re gouging us, man — totally harshing our buzz, man! We just need to get some new dealers, see!  Help us rough up our dealers, OK, man?

Then we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK, we’ll be OK…

See?

Can you say “Carmageddon?”

A Dodge Indeed: “Gas Prices” or Carmageddon?

“America is addicted to oil,” but only because the world’s capitalist overclass is addicted to perpetuating the automobiles-über-alles transportation order of the United States.

To any rational observer of current events, this remarkable arrangement is now massively and multiply promising to become perhaps history’s greatest teacher of the lesson “Be careful what you ask for — you might get it.”

Always a capitalist’s wet dream, the reign of the private automobile was always basically inevitable in the United States, where the flux and flow of human and national histories gave corporate shareholders their clearest path to essentially unchecked power and an ensuing paradise of industrial-scale money-making. Contrary to mainstream dogma, ordinary people would never have spontaneously used democracy to demand the wildly expensive, destructive, and dangerous cars-first American situation. Only an overclass that thrives on waste and enjoys extremely deep political dominance could have called it forth, via Promethean assumptions and methods.

So, now that the wheels are undeniably starting to fall off, is the overclass likely to break the historical rule that entrenched elites never voluntarily give up their powers and privileges? Will the powers-that-be admit they fucked up, and start allowing discussion of their fuck-up?

You can judge the odds of that happening by pondering items such as Daimler-Chrysler’s latest avoidance tactic, the “$2.99 Gas Guarantee.”

You can expect no efforts to be spared to keep the impending arrival of Carmageddon to be labeled a problem of “gas prices,” “oil addiction,” “alternative fuels,” etc. — anything and everything but what it actually is: capitalism’s self-dug grave.