Fuelish Ways Update

As gas prices continue heading inexorably up, this much seems likely. At some point, the economic hit will be significant, perhaps seismic.

Also evident is this: We are preparing for such a scenario as if deferring the day of reckoning is a viable strategy. We have, in effect, an ostrich plan, but there is no domestic-energy Manhattan Project in the offing, even though national security is very much at stake.

The recent energy bill’s message was clearly – and unfortunately – one of compromise, not crisis or commitment.

Refineries, as we know, are built as infrequently as nuclear power plants. The Arctic and outer continental shelf can’t buy enough time. China continues to boom on the demand side, and there’s no lack of scary scenarios – from Islamic terrorism and sabotage to Venezuelan nationalism – on the supply side. Mess transit is still the rule, a prescript the Tampa Bay area continues to traffick in.

This is the worst of times for an SUV – unless it’s Some Utopian Vision of priority revision. But we see the Bush Administration propose raising fuel economy standards that don’t apply to passenger cars and don’t cover SUV behemoths, such as the Hummer H2. Gasahol is a Corn Belt ruse. Windmills are for tilting. And on a visceral, consumer level, hybrids – from generic looking to butt ugly — remain a minor market factor.

Manufacturers are still pandering to customers’ emotional tastes and egos rather than assessing society’s needs and priorities. Do Hummers belong in a war zone or a wet zone?

A recent quote by Robert Lutz, who heads product development for General Motors, underscores the problem — without acknowledging there is one. “We’re not in the transportation business,” emphasized Lutz, “we are in the arts and entertainment business.”

But for how much longer?

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