Keeping up with the neighbors

Let me let you in on a little secret:  I am not a car person. As long as it starts and gets me there I am content. With a little effort I might remember a car’s color, but do not expect much else from me, like unimportant  little details such as manufacturer or model name. That gene is definitely missing. My ‘car-uncaring’ attitude might have to do with the fact that I grew up in a village where small farmers made up the larger part of the population and where cows, pigs and live-stock in general definitely outnumbered powered vehicles.  But even I, in my car-unconscious bliss, remember a time when the size of the car one was driving was a kind of a statement of who you were, an indication of wealth or importance. And it was always the bigger and faster the better. Over the years there might have been a slight shift away from merely size and model to where the car was made. One thing has stayed pretty much the same though, and that is our careless attitude about how environmentally friendly that thing we are driving really is. It took a startling increase in fuel prices to even get us to start thinking that maybe we might have to change our approach, that there might be a better way and that looking towards the future we could not be satisfied with yesterday’s approach.

One could not tell by looking at the U.S. car industry which was still burping out fuel guzzling super-sized behemoths at a time when most people could see the handwriting on the wall. Gas prices were not going to get any lower soon, oil was going to run out if not today then in the foreseeable future, yet we still allowed the oil companies to lead us around by our noses. Now that things have predictably turned sour we are supposed to bail out the auto makers (among others, god only knows what else is in the pipelines waiting for us taxpayers to give a leg up).

The startling thing about this mess is that there does not seem to be much soul searching going on in Detroit. At best we hear that alternate energy sources are not ready yet, so I would like to know what the bail out money really accomplishes. Is it merely buying time so the same thing can be done for a little longer? But guess what – some people, companies, countries, actually try to look towards the future with innovative ideas. Unless the U.S. car industry jumps on that bandwagon there may not be a tomorrow for them. This might be a good reason into looking what’s going on outside our borders and try to keep up with the neighbors.

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