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August 21, 2005

No Fear From The Fuelhardy


Give the NYT Mag a free car wash for trying. 

Today’s lead article (The Breaking Point – link) discusses various factors and scenarios that could lead to a dramatic oil shortfall.  Following the theme, the cover illustration asks the reader to imagine the sudden possibility of not enough oil to fill up the car.  (As the article reminds us, the U.S. consumes a quarter of the world’s oil supply — mostly to produce gasoline.)

The problem with the illustration, however, is that it appeals to deaf ears.  In other words, Americans are currently so reinforced to consume without consideration of consequence, and the Administration is so utterly unwilling to recognize limits in any form (in spending, in resources, in the exercise of power), who could seriously entertain the suggestion that an American couldn’t have something just for the wanting?

In an analogy, exaggeration can be quite effective — especially if the proposition happens to introduce some fear.  In this case however, the technique misfires.  It might cost an-arm-and-a-leg to move that needle, but the right to a full tank has become as sacred an American article of faith as violence, charge cards, television and God.

(image: NYT Magazine. August 21, 2005)

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