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The Denver Hybrid 500

let's use the brains God gave us.....

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 26, 2006.

The Toyota Motor Company’s hybrid engines are terrific machines, as reliable and powerful as advertised, and quite gas efficient. They are most efficient in the stop and go traffic of the city, where much of our pollution is produced, so it isn’t just the overall mileage aspect that needs to be factored in to their estimation. Whether they get 40 or 43 mpg on the highway isn’t as ecologically important as that they produce, compared to others, next to none stuck in traffic, where most vehicles are most polluting.

Toyota’s made the Prius a success and the new luxury Camrys, with the same technology, are now out as well. These hybrids, superior in many ways to rival Honda’s also impressive products, point the way towards our independent conveyance future. Should, you know, there be one.

It’s uncertain, because President Bush, obviously pressured by doomed GOP candidates for the fall election, came out yesterday with some remarkably dumb, useless, and retroactive ideas on how to fight what is shaping up to be a culture changing few years in the wake of his foreign and energy incompetence, of which the high gasoline prices are only a symptom. I can’t believe anyone would think Bush’s bubblehead solutions worthy. At best, his actions might, and it’s not sure, save a few cents a gallon. It isn’t impossible gas will be over $4 by Labor Day. Drilling in Senator Stephens’ backyard nature preserves, altering ecologic processing in the refineries, will neither help fuel prices, the economy, nor the GOP. But I’m not sure the Democrats or the far left masquerading as Greens have much in the way of a solution, either. But then, I’m not convinced they want one, any more than I’m sure they want the responsibility of election and being forced to rule by their own professed beliefs.

Bush’s panicked response happened right after the announcement of General Motors and Ford Motor folding tents, and it strikes me that any government of leadership would make the connection and use harsh times to speak harsh truth. And here it is.

The failure of our car manufacturers and all it represents in both jobs and industry and national prestige isn’t due to inflated executive compensations, even those honestly achieved, or overpaid and increasingly obese union workers who don’t live within their means. Those are just embarrassments, insulting to common sense. It really isn’t health insurance issues either, although it surely hits hard in the short and long term as we grapple with new euphemisms for socialized medicine so we can pretend it isn’t.

The problem is that America is no longer industrial cutting edge, and doesn’t make major products of interest to itself or of value to the future. And our government is okay with that. That we aren’t inventing or producing the best engineered hybrids in the world is annoying. That neither Ford nor General Motors had the brains, foresight, or competence to produce ANY hybrid tech to compare with the Japanese is incredible to me. I cannot believe it. Even Volvo has hybrid production plans superior to our vague thoughts. Volvo includes solar panels on the roof.

What is the response of America, once home to Yankee ingenuity and common sense, to the loss of our jobs, prestige, competence in these matters? Oh, half-baked hybrid SUV’s and pickup trucks advertised as if they were sex toys and which don’t get better mileage, somehow. Pretend innovation in the dead industry of internal combustion. Or, at least, exclusive internal combustion.

It is forgot, these days of mass advertising and product placement, that things like auto racing and, in the day, airplane racing, had a goal. Flight and, for that matter, the internal combustion engine and its variant forms, were new a hundred years ago, and those races and innovations were not restricted to bored millionaires, but accepted and encouraged amateur genius. It developed cutting edge technology and tested it in the revered private sector.

But we seem to have forgotten all that. Car races today are not cutting edge but exercises in dated, dumb, and doomed technology. Deaths on the race track or in Bumblebee aircraft once held the added gravitas that things of importance – lasting importance – were being learned. But America has changed. It’s not NAFTA’s fault, its not the immigrants, it’s us as we are. It turns out that America’s supposed capitalists really aren’t the solution to our future. Nor are the rest of us. We’re fat in body and mind. Full time hypochondriacs, and timid in the face of competing technology that Americans once owned in fact and promise. We’re content with our myths, and we don’t even compete in these very basic industrial and societal needs.

I’d be willing to bet that if an American auto race had been conceived for actual stock cars and allowed any hybrid technology but only ten gallons of regular gasoline for a race, say, of five hundred miles, we’d have had GM and Ford churning out 100 mpg product a decade ago, our energy demands would have plummeted, with remarkable effect on, say, our relations around the world today. It’s not oil company greed. It’s cultural inertia. And we should be personally embarrassed that when the idea of a car race in Colorado is revived, the title of Denver Hybrid 500 never makes the grade, so far as I know. Isn't that an idea whose time has come, though?