detroit, the next new orleans

A clip from the website of James Kunstler, the author of, “The Long Emergency.” (Thanks, Laurie.)

Take a good look at America around you now, because when we emerge from the winter of 2005 – 6, we’re going to be another country. The reality-oblivious nation of mall hounds, bargain shoppers, happy motorists, Nascar fans, Red State war hawks, and born-again Krispy Kremers is headed into a werewolf-like transformation that will reveal to all the tragic monster we have become.

What we will leave behind is the certainty that we have made the right choices. Was it a good thing to buy a 3,600 square foot house 32 miles outside Minneapolis with an interest-only adjustable rate mortgage — with natural gas for home heating running at $12 a unit and gasoline over $3 a gallon? Was it the right choice to run three credit cards up to their $5000 limit? Was I chump to think my pension from Acme Airlines would really be there for me? Do I really owe the Middletown Hospital $17,678 for a gall bladder operation that took forty-five minutes? And why did they charge me $238 for a plastic catheter?

All kinds of assumptions about the okay-ness of our recent collective behavior are headed out the window. This naturally beats a straight path to politics, since that is the theater in which our collective choices are dramatized. It really won’t take another jolting event like a major hurricane or a terror incident or an H4N5 flu outbreak to take things over the edge — though it is very likely that something else will happen. George W. Bush, and the party he represents, are headed into full Hooverization mode. After Katrina, nobody will take claims of governmental competence seriously…

On a somewhat related note, I just read in the Detroit News today that GM is “enthusiastic” about their line of 12 new, full-size SUVs…. I may have implied as much before, but now I’ll just come right out and say it — like New Orleans, it might just be time for Detroit to fade away… We had a hundred year headstart and we fucked it up. In my estimation, that’s just as stupid as building a city beneath water level… Here’s a clip from the article:

But by betting big on a redesigned fleet of 12 full-size SUVs, including the Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade, GM is trying to buck a consumer shift toward smaller, more fuel-efficient cars and crossover vehicles.

Rising gas prices have hit the large SUV segment hard this year, with U.S. sales down 11 percent through August. Yet GM, the biggest player in the full-size SUV market, expressed confidence that its new lineup will invigorate a segment that has been steadily shrinking.

“It may contract, but it’s not going away,” said Mark LaNeve, GM’s head of sales and marketing. “This is a very large, very important and very profitable market.”

GM deserves its fate… We all do.

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  1. Teddy Glass
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    It may be too little, too late, but I just got the following note from Betsy Taylor, the president of the New Anerican Dream project:

    have good news to share. This morning at 8:30 a.m., I participated in a small conference call with Ford Motor management as they briefed me on an announcement that Bill Ford is making today. They specifically mentioned that this was in part due to our work, along with the pressure from environmental groups and rising oil prices.

    In particular, Ford announced that it will:

    * Increase hybrid production ten fold from current output of 25,000 to 250,000 cars per year by 2010;
    * Promote flexible fuel vehicles and help build an ethanol infrastructure in the Midwest;
    * Develop a pilot program to offset any carbon emissions involved with the actual production of hybrid vehicles; and
    * Conduct a pilot consumer education program to encourage consumers to reduce carbon emissions.

    I have no doubt that New American Dream’s efforts to strengthen consumer demand for advanced hybrid electric vehicles has played a role in this decision. Clearly, the thousands of letters and emails that you sent to Chairman Ford are making a difference.

    Suffice it to say, the proof will be in the pudding. The company clearly needs to take additional steps if they are to rise from last place in greenhouse emission performance among the Big Six automakers to be a true champion of energy independence and climate stabilization. Ford also has yet to address New Dreamers’ calls for the company to reform or abandon the Auto Alliance that lobbies aggressively against any improved standards for fuel efficiency.

    Still, this is a very significant step for Ford Motor Company given their current business climate. Ford is stepping out ahead of General Motors and we want to voice our appreciation of that step. Please take a moment today to share this good news with your friends and to send a personal message directly to Bill Ford at:

    Again, THANK YOU for helping us move the auto industry.

    Betsy Taylor
    New American Dream

    My sense is that Ford wanted to do this a long time ago, but that he couldn’t, or felt like he couldn’t get his organization behind him. I may be wrong about that though.

  2. Posted September 22, 2005 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Teddy beat me to it, but you should note that the Detroit News had both the article about GM betting on 12 new full-size SUVs _and_ an article on Ford committing to producing hybrid versions of _half_ of its models by 2010.

  3. mark
    Posted September 22, 2005 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    I’d still argue that it’s too little, too late, but I appreciate that Ford has finally taken a step in the right direction, after years of talking a good game when it comes to the environment.

  4. Posted September 22, 2005 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    By “Detroit”, surely you mean Oakland County.

    Thanks for posting the link to “Clusterfuck Nation”. I’ve been a fan since reading an interveiw Kunstler did with Jane Jacobs in 2000. He was talking about peak oil way back then.

  5. mark
    Posted September 23, 2005 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the link, Hillary. I didn’t know about the interview.

    And, of course, I didn’t mean Hamtramck.

  6. Posted September 23, 2005 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Mark, I think Hillary was pointing out that Detroiters tend to drive 15-year-old cars while Oakland County seems to be the largest SUV market in the country.

    For the last year I’ve been driving the Lodge from the east side up to I-696. It’s me and a handfull of cars leaving the city in the morning.

    On the Southbound Lodge is a traffic jam of SUVs and immaculate dualie quad-cabs. In the evening, it’s the exact opposite.

  7. Posted September 23, 2005 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I saw a couple GM commercials last night during the season premier of CSI. The music in the background, and I’m relying on my faulty memory here so it’s not verbatim, had lyrics that said something like “Use me until I’m gone.” while they were talking about their wonderful new line of trucks and SUVs. I guess it was the gas singing.

  8. Posted September 23, 2005 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Additionally, Oakland county is where people are building the 3600 square foot McMansion they bought on an interest-only loan. I believe that the property value of those homes will drop dramatically when the original buyers go bankrupt, causing a second flight from the suburbs back to Wayne County, and a reversal of the property values in SE Michigan. (We had hoped to own more houses before that happened.) Hamtramck is the ideal place for a person to live out their bankrupcy.

  9. Posted September 24, 2005 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    As long as there’s a market for these road-hogs, someone will produce them.

    It’s not just GM that’s betting on big trucks… Toyota’s ramping up their full-size truck/SUV plant in Texas. Everyone seems to ignore this (and the fact that they sell lots of other gas-hogging vehicles) as they praise the Prius as the solution to the world’s problems. You gotta give their PR department a hand though.

    For GM, when you consider that probably every one of their brands will have their version of their full-size truck/SUV, you quickly reach 12 models. I think the fact that they have too many brands to pay attention to is more of a problem.

  10. Posted September 24, 2005 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Toyota, though, just announced that they will offer a hybrid version of almost every car they make…in much less than Ford’s 10 years.

    Ironically, Toyota bought the original hybrid technology from Ford and Ford has to buy some of it back.

  11. mark
    Posted September 25, 2005 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t mean to suggest that all of Detroit deserves to be wiped away. I was just suggesting at, in so far as it’s the home of the American auto industry, perhaps its time has come and gone… A lot of people, in the wake of Katrina, were reminding us that “cities aren’t forever,” and it just seemed as though it might be something to discuss relative to Detroit… I’m tired.

  12. Hillary
    Posted September 26, 2005 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    “I was just suggesting that, in so far as it’s the home of the American auto industry, perhaps its time has come and gone… “

    Long gone. We’re in a special hell in Detroit because money lenders, insurance companies, and real estate agents all capitolized on racism. Neighborhood wrecking highways, cheap cars and cheap gas made it all possible.

    “A lot of people, in the wake of Katrina, were reminding us that “cities aren’t forever,” and it just seemed as though it might be something to discuss relative to Detroit”

    People have been talking that way about Detroit for years. The cost of materials and transportation may end that debate soon.

    “Suburbia is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world” – Kunstler

    Here is a good Canadian article on this same topic I found looking for that quote:

  13. Posted March 8, 2006 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Ford Field is an industry leading sportsConsumer and commercial vehicle loans and leases, financial tools, acce…

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