THE BLOG
07/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Blowing a Green Gasket at an American Auto Crisis

As I find myself entrenched in the environmentally-conscious world, both from a business perspective and from a deeper set of core beliefs, I cannot help but blow a proverbial green gasket.

When it comes to the US auto business, corporations, our government, feed us info and sales pitches, abd plot a course of action, that simply defy logic. They've just got be kidding us, right?

I must have missed the appointments of Larry, Moe, and Curly as CEOs of our sad sack U.S. automobile companies. But can they be blamed when their shortsightedness and lack of direction is only surpassed by their governmental sidekicks? Not to mention a buying public that needs to be smacked upside the head with gas prices that make them shake in their booties?

It is crazy that George W. went to the Middle East three weeks ago hat in hand, met with the Saudis and begged for more oil production. A very enlightened energy policy if you ask me. "Conserve, conserve, conserve"- George W.'s mantra. As our President grovels to those who funded the 9/11 attacks, we've come a long way, baby.

It's insane that a current ad campaign run by the U.S. Department of Energy tells us "non-believers" that contrary to our own misguided energy concerns (has anyone else passed premium gas at $5.49/gallon), the American energy future is bright and plentiful. Their campaign spotlights a future within terms of a 60/60 matrix. Yes we may have adequate oil production to fuel 60 million cars and heat 160,000,000 homes for the next 60 years. But I must be a klunkhead; I missed the conservation message put forth by this well oiled department. Does anyone question our responsibility to the plant to simply use less? Apparently that's not important. Hell, I may as well be off to get that V12 double overhead hemi-turbo thingy. VROOOOOM!

Has anyone seen the new Honda Pilot SUV commercials? These large Honda SUVs tout their green-ness unabashedly in a series of humor laden ads. Let's cut to the end of my work day yesterday--it's 75 degrees and sunny when I get on my bike and take a long ride overlooking the ocean to watch the sunset. But AH! What is that overbearing and disturbing noise I hear? Oh, its THREE planes flying in a straight line along the shorelines, creating so much noise you can't hear yourself think, pulling huge identical Honda Pilot banners, YES THREE in a row, just in case you missed the first or the second gas guzzling plane! An environmental blue ribbon to the ad agency please! Acts like this make me understand how some twisted mind invented shoulder hoisted surface to air missiles.

Prior to my move to California, I spent 40 years living in Detroit, which means that being a Car Guy is in my DNA. Sadly, though not surprisingly, I just viewed anther brilliant moment in advertising straight from my hometown, The Motor City. The auto industry has been to shortsighted to manufacture high mileage, low emission cars, so instead they are subsidizing the price of a gallon of gas, guaranteeing anyone crazy enough to buy a new Chrysler SUV, $2.99/gallon gas for the next three years. Chrysler gets a gold star for brilliance in creative misdirection for this hokey and misdirected promotion.

But how different is this Chrysler knucklehead idea from "my friend" John McCain's inane proposal to roll back gas taxes for a full summer? Does the concept of conservation ever enter these folks' thinking?

Recently GM announced a reallocation of technology and new development into highly gas efficient transportation. Mazel Tov, General Motors! Was it the billions of dollars of losses you've been generating over the last few years, or perhaps gas approaching and surpassing $5/gallon on the West Coast and well over $4/gallon in the rest of the country that made you finally have that "Oh Yeah" moment.

While speaking with a high-ranking domestic automobile executive last year, I asked a simple question, "How high do gas prices have to go before Americans will change their driving habits?" His response was that they thought somewhere between $5 and $6/gallon. Coupled with a recessionary economic outlook, the number seems to be closer to $4/gallon. Regardless, it's unbelievable that the handwriting that has been on the wall for decades needs to be delivered with a sledgehammer to the side of the collective heads of American auto executives in order for these American iconic companies to react.

What is it going to take to start realizing our days as unconscious, over-the-top, energy-ignorant consumers are over? A seemingly well-educated 40-year old guy I met at a party last Saturday night said to me, "Oh they'll find a way to straighten this mess out." As he went to leave in his gas-subsidized SUV and laid some serious dust, my hope for the American public soared.

This stupid, head-in-the-sand attitude will cripple this country. It has crippled our foreign policy (cloaked in the oil chase), and it will pass along a legacy of unending deficit to our kids. It has to stop and it has to stop now.

I heard an interesting number last night--Americans drove 1.8 BILLION fewer miles in April 2007 than in April 2008. Maybe G.W. had this up his sleeve all the time; keep them oil companies in unconscionable riches and sooner or later American will start conserving. Hell, we just didn't see it coming.

Oh yeah. Does the department of Energy have any suggestions for what happens in 60 years and one day?