Bailouts, Ponzi Schemes and Green Issues

The Lord of Darkness, Peter Mandelson, and I went to the same college, I am embarrassed to admit. (No, I could not have taken the opportunity to push a stake through his heart because he was there a few years before me and our paths did not cross. A pity.) He is now keen to spend billions bailing out our mainly foreign-owned car industry. Seems like yet another waste of money. Funny how you get used to them. “Bailout fatigue”? Looking along the streets it seems that we have more than enough cars already. I know I do, having three myself. Never mind when they are being driven around, you can hardly move for all the space they take up when parked. At least my cars are gorgeous to look at! I can’t help thinking that the car industry, like so much of the economy of the first world, is another Ponzi scheme. We have to keep buying and buying in order to maintain a status quo. We stop buying and everything collapses. There’s an argument here for spending less on ‘stuff’ and more on services, especially those services which are not harmful to the environment as opposed to the manufacture of the stuff that is. I pretty much already have all the possessions I will ever need.

Stop all manufacturing of cars now, unless they meet serious green criteria. And I don’t mean the tiny increases in miles per gallon that you might get from some hybrid over a petrol engine, I mean order of magnitude decreases in pollutants. Not that I particularly care about global warming, I think there are far worse things going to happen in the next decade that will make the global-warming fuss look a bit silly. But I do object to the use of global warming as justification for producing more cars. Stop making new cars until they are truly green, and just mend the old ones if they break down. Until you’ve owned a classic car you can’t fully appreciate the joys of driving for just 15 minutes before having to call out a mechanic!

This reminds me of the Scottish author Iain Banks, a famous petrolhead, who recently sold his collection of classic cars and replaced them with a single hybrid. He used to have a Porsche 911 Turbo, a Porsche Boxster S, a BMW M5 and a Land Rover Discovery. And he bought a Lexus SUV hybrid instead.

Am I alone in thinking this counterproductive?

First he says that he’s getting about 28.5mpg out of the Lexus as opposed to the “low 20s” he got from Porsches and the BMW. See what I mean? The marginal improvement probably did not outweigh the damage caused by the manufacture of the Lexus in the first place.

And, second, it is not humanly possible for Iain Banks, brilliant author though he may be, to drive more than one car at a time. So now there are five gas-guzzling cars on the roads, possibly all at the same time, when before there was just one.