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People Love Their Cars

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In the 1992 movie Singles, Steve (played by Campbell Scott) has a grand vision of a “supertrain” for Seattle — it will cut down on traffic and be good for the environment. He explains the idea to his friend, who nods in approval, then hesitantly replies, “But I love my car.”

Steve eventually gets a meeting with the mayor, where he explains the great benefits of the supertrain. The mayor is silent for a moment, then says, “People love their cars.” The supertrain dream is dead.

I bring this up not because I loved that movie so much (although it’s pretty good, and Campbell Scott really should have become a star, he was excellent as the car salesman in Big Night just as a quick example of other prime work, but he seems to have gotten more into producing, and in the most recent picture I’ve seen of him he had grown an unfortunate mustache), but because today’s op-ed from William Rasberry about oil company executives explaining their astronomical profits as some sort of benevolence made the movie come to mind.

The Exxon Mobil chairman with the 7 chins, Lee Raymond, attempted to explain that $32.8 billion in profits by the largest oil companies in a single quarter was a result of supply and demand, and the record gas prices were simply the result of the demand, and that massive oil company profits were not at all related to pumped-up gas prices so it would have made no sense to keep gas prices at a lower level because… in other words, a bunch of f***ing lies to try to get you so confused you would forget that the obvious answer was simple price gouging.

Piling on oil companies for being greedy profiteers isn’t exactly news, though. They not only make massive amounts of money, the government subsidizes them so their profits can grow even higher, and no one ever gets too upset about the whole thing.

Why? People love their cars.

Our country is made of people that love to drive, that love to take vacations, that love oil and its byproducts. It may not feel great to see our president constantly make oil companies’ lives easier, but we can’t get too worked up because we’ve all got a little guilt in the matter.

We don’t want to take the supertrain. We love our cars. We’ll dabble in hybrids, maybe. But we want freedom to hit the open road whenever the mood strikes us.

I’m as guilty as anyone, although I pat myself on the back a little because I work out of my house and have no commute. Nevertheless, at the height of gas prices, my family took a Labor Day drive to Chicago, 300 miles both ways. I’m sure the Exxon Mobil chairman would be happy to hear it.

This post isn’t to scold anyone else on their use of oil; I haven’t dedicated my life to only riding bikes and heating my home with thousands of gerbils running really fast on those little wheels.

It’s just a reminder that we can villify oil company execs all we want, but we’re the ones that make their lives easier by doing nothing to curb our oil-dependent lifestyles. And while lip service is paid to “reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” the truth is we only want new technologies that will make our cars run on cow shit or some other easily-renewable source instead of making any changes that would help fix the problem.

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  • Guppusmaximus

    Singles was a great movie but I understand your point. Who wants to sit on a train next to someone everyday when you can drive while crankin the tunes!! Especially some “Alien” by Strapping Young Lad…It really boils the blood.
    Riding the train always sounds better in Theory than Reality and who wants to give up their privacy or control anyways??

  • Given that I spend an average of 4 hours a day driving and probably put 500–700 miles a week on my car, I’m not villifying anyone. I live in Houston and cars are pretty much a must-have.

  • Dave Nalle

    I hate my car. I just haven’t found a different one that I’m excited enough about to buy yet.


  • Gary S.

    I was just reading an article on oil prices and thought of that scene from Singles–“People love their cars”–and via Google I found this blog post, which seems prophetic considering the high prices now as compared to when you posted this.

    It’s absolutely true. Outside of the basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter), the car is the #1 killer app in the history of the world. It saves us so much time and money that it’s really hard to drive less.

    Thanks for a great post, and for reminding me about a fun movie. 🙂