As of midnight last night, the transmission in my car is done like dinner. And I had just filled the tank up, too.

I’ve been driving for Uber for the past month in an effort to earn some extra cash, and the workload proved to be too much for my 2001 Ford Focus.  What’s funny is that I was looking online for a new car just before heading out to clock in and drive.

I say “new car” but what I really mean is a used car that is under 5 years old and has less than 100,000 miles on it. No one I know can afford a new car.

Sure, we may be able to afford a monthly payment, but most of us can’t afford to actually buy a new car, at least not the one we really want. Those of us who regard ourselves as practical are forced to settle for two-year low mileage lease specials with few additional options, while the short-sighted and pompous choose to squander resources and make life more difficult as they chase The New.

During Sunday night’s Democratic Candidates Debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Bernie Sanders, “Senator Sanders, Americans love their SUVs, which spiked in sales last year as gas prices plummeted. How do you convince Americans that the problem of climate change is so urgent that they need to change their behavior?”

My immediate thought was “Wait. We need to change our behavior?”

Holt’s question implies that SUV sales being high in 2015 means Americans aren’t currently concerned about climate change, and are demonstrating that lack of concern by purchasing environmentally-unfriendly vehicles.

I don’t know about you, but I’m very concerned about the environment. (I’m the guy you see at parties taking the plastic 6-pack ring from the trash and using my Leatherman to slice and remove every hole in that thing.) When it comes to buying an environmentally-friendly vehicle, my ideal new car on the market today is the Tesla Model S.

The Model S is great for the environment because it’s a battery-powered 100% electric vehicle. You can drive up to 270 miles before having to recharge, and Tesla is building free supercharging stations across the country, strategically positioned between major cities; drivers can fully charge their batteries in around 20 minutes, making it perfect for a short break to stretch out and grab a bite to eat. The car is also a blast to drive, and loaded with luxury options.

And the base model’s price starts at…$69,900!!

Now, one can argue that since you don’t ever have to pay for gas, the cost is recuperated over time. Makes sense.

However, for the base model with no additional options, and after making the required $2,500 down payment and paying the necessary fees, the monthly payment comes to…$816!

Never mind the fact that Tesla is actively being blocked by the automotive industry, and set aside the reality that I can’t get one in Michigan, who the hell can afford that in today’s economy??

You know the answer. We all do.

Last night my best friend suggested I go see her sales rep at one of our local Ford dealers, which happens to be the same dealer where my dad leases his vehicles. So, I went to their website to see what specials they are currently offering:

“NEW 2016 Ford Escape SE for $154 per month; NEW 2015 Ford Edge SE for $229 per month; NEW 2015 Ford F-150 XL Super Cab 4×4 for $242 per month.”

These two SUVs and a truck bottom out at 19-22 miles per gallon, and only the F-150 has Ford’s EcoBoost technology, which reduces greenhouse emissions by a mere 15%.

Contrast these with the 2016 Focus Electric which comes to $356 per month, even with no down payment. Compared to the F-150, that’s a difference of $127 per month, or $1,524 per year. If it costs $25 to fill up the truck’s gas tank and you fill up once a week, you’ll still have an extra $450 at the end of the 2-year lease. (That’s enough to take a family of four to see the most popular professional sport in our country…if your town has a losing team.)

Based on the current offers from Big Three auto companies, for a struggling middle class American living paycheck to paycheck, it makes more economical sense in the short term to lease the F-150, Escape, or Edge than it does the Focus Electric. It’s just too expensive right now, and would require making certain lifestyle sacrifices which our current culture values and thusly requires.

Truth is, it seems doing anything to live cleaner and “greener” costs more these days…

Do you prefer to eat organic food? Want your beef pasture-raised, grass-fed and finished, not factory farmed and pumped full of hormones? Organic beef at my local grocery store is $7.49 per pound, on sale. Pink slime is always $2.99 per pound.

Do you use cannabis rather than taking medication with potentially dangerous (or fatal) side effects, but don’t want the respiratory hazards of smoke? A quality portable convection vaporizer with a warranty is at least $300 to order online. ZigZag papers are $1.99 at the gas station.

And now, you want to buy a car that leaves as small a carbon footprint as possible? The deck is stacked, and it’s not in Mother Earth’s favor.

It makes me think of that hit song by Midnight Oil in the 90s…

“The time has come to say fair’s fair, to pay the rent, to pay our share. The time has come, a fact’s a fact. It belongs to them, let’s give it back. How do we dance when our earth is turning? How do we sleep while our beds are burning?”

We are in the midst of an ongoing technological and social revolution – nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.

But revolutions upset the status quo, and right now the status quo of the auto industry is based on ideas and precepts of the Industrial Revolution. Gas-powered, oil-based.

Simply: making environmentally-friendly vehicles more affordable for America’s middle class will astronomically reduce Big Oil and Big Auto’s profits.

So, what do they do to maintain their hold on the automotive industry? They use their financial leverage and their connections in Congress to block the innovators (Tesla), and ensure that most “special offers” are only for the gas-guzzlers. More so, they lobby against the movement toward clean energy. It’s the same with organic food (Big Meat) and marijuana (Big Pharma and Big Alcohol).

These powerful special interest groups are composed of immensely wealthy corporations struggling to survive because the old ways of doing things are coming to an end. Rather than move forward with the rest of us who are surfing the waves of change, they choose to fight tooth and nail to preserve their soon-to-be-ancient models of doing business.

Even at the cost of the planet’s health.

But life is short anyway, right? And they say time is money. And we’re all so busy all the time already. And who doesn’t like getting a new car every two years? Let’s face it, a lot of us are going to lease the SUV, even if it means we get cold stares from anyone driving a Prius.

Of course, there are workarounds: you can order a whole pasture-raised, grass-fed and finished cow to be processed directly, buy a used car, plant a vegetable garden in your yard, adjust your diet and exercise program to reduce health risks, make your own solar paneling for powering your home, etc.

To answer Holt’s question from above, sure, we can change our behavior and minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible. But until Big Auto and Big Oil change their behavior, and make environmentally-friendly vehicles more available and affordable for an eroding middle class, the least expensive option is generally going to win.

Me? I’m going to contact a few dealerships today to see about a good used hatchback for under $8,000.

Wish me luck.  🙂

P.S. Say “No More” to rich special interest groups.  Watch the lyric video for my new protest song here: https://youtu.be/2di4s_yrfLE.

P.P.S.  Send your email address to blog@therealjohnkay.com and get my full-length album for free before it is officially released.  😀

John Kay
blog@therealjohnkay.com
TheRealJohnKay.com

Music: http://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Twitter: @therealjohnkay
InstaGram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /therealjohnkay

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5 thoughts on “Burning the Midnight Oil, or Why SUV Sales Actually Spiked in 2015

  1. I really enjoy your blog, John! I started coming here just because I was a KK fan. You are so much more than meets the eye. Good luck finding a car.

  2. Sure, I would be happy to check it out.Looking forward to it. Glad to hear about the car! I know first hand how difficult it is to get around without one here in the Midwest. Stay warm out there, I am freezing here in Indiana.

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