Transcript: Beat al-Qaeda & global warming, reinvent our car industry & save lives rant, 13 Nov 2008

So how do we break the back of al-Qaeda, reinvent our car industry and stop the world from being destroyed by global warming all at the same time?
I have a modest proposal for you today, my friends.

Thom Hartmann's Beat al-Qaeda and global warming, reinvent our car industry and save lives rant, 13 November 2008

So how do we break the back of al-Qaeda, reinvent our car industry and stop the world from being destroyed by global warming all at the same time? I have a modest proposal for you today, my friends.


What do we do? How we do this? There's all this talk about, you know, bailing out the auto industry, and of course right wing talk radio is just going out of their way to blame the entire thing on the UAW which is nonsense. And then, you know, you've got people kicking around management at GM, Ford and Chrysler. There's something to be said for that. I would submit to you that management of these companies, and I say this as a guy who grew up in Lansing Michigan. I don't know if it was most, but many of my friend's fathers worked at the Oldsmobile assembly plant, Lansing, and / or in businesses associated with them. My dad worked in a tool and die shop that was associated with that industry. And there really was a cleavage, from the days of Henry Ford to today. And you find the management, I mean, one of the senior VPs of GM made the comment, I believe it was GM, might have been Ford, made the comment that global warming was a crock of expletive deleted. So, you know, there's long been this cleavage between the Bloomfield Hills Republicans who were running the car companies and the Democrats who were working in them.

And I would submit to you that some members of the Michigan congressional delegation over the years have even Democratic members, you know and I I would put John Dingle, frankly, in this camp, have not always worked in the best interest of the workers, because they've been so anxious to fall all over themselves for management, which has been largely Republican and promoting Republican memes. But there's a larger issue here at stake.

We are looking at a confluence of events that could be disastrous. First of all, from today's Financial Times, the headline "Crash in oil exploration puts world 'on bad path'": "A lack of investment in new sources of oil risks a supply crunch worse than the problems that pushed prices to $147 a barrel this summer... The International Energy Agency warned that cuts and delays in investment that were prompted by the fall in oil prices and the credit crunch had put the world "on a bad path"."

So what's happening is as the price of oil is falling, the oil companies are going, 'well, we don't need to drill any more; we need to stop drilling, in fact, stop exploring and drive up the price'. They go on to note in the article, "But meeting the demand growth is secondary to the big challenge of compensating for the fast-declining production from the world's older fields". Demand currently,, last year. was 85 million barrels a day. They're expecting by 2030 it will be 106 million barrels a day. But the fields experiencing the sharpest declines are where? The North Sea and Alaska. "This meant the west", the Financial Times concludes, "would become less and less of an influence in terms of production, while [Persian] Gulf countries would become more important".

At the same time, as the result of burning all this oil, Ed Crooks in London writing in today's Financial Times, " “business as usual” policies would have “shocking” consequences for the climate, raising average temperatures by up to 6°C". What six degrees centigrade increase in worldwide temperatures would do is melt all the ice at the North and South poles.

It means New York City would be under water. Half of Florida would vanish. This is literally the path we are on right now. And what they say is that the price of emissions in a system that would simply constrain us to two degrees Celsius of temperature increase over the next fifty years, rather than six degrees, not enough necessarily to melt all that ice and cause all that damage, but enough to still make hurricanes and tornadoes worse, and all kinds of problems. But to do that, carbon has to be priced at 180 dollars a ton, carbon dioxide. That's just to get us to 450 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. Whereas right now in the EU carbon is trading, in the cap and trade markets of Europe, is not trading at 180 dollars a ton, what it has to be set at in order to provide an incentive to drive production down to that level. Instead it's trading 23 dollars a ton.

But here's the deal. General Motors is making 100%, let me restart that. 100% of the cars General Motors is making in Brazil are flex fuel cars. It costs about 100 dollars more to make a flex fuel car than it does to make gasoline car. Hundred bucks. And for that hundred dollars, you know, less than the cost of the seat belt system, and for that hundred bucks what you can do then is you can put gasoline in the tank, you can put ethanol in the tank, you can put methanol which you can make out of coal. China is making coal out of methanol right now. China has coal the way Saudi Arabia has oil. We do as well, by the way. And they're making methanol out of that oil, or, out of that coal. And they're making flex fuel vehicles in China. You can mix methanol and gasoline. You can mix methanol, gasoline and hybrid technology.

I mean, just consider. First of all let's, here's the big frame. We have the capacity. We're producing about 3% of the world's oil and we might have the capacity to produce 4% of the world's oil. If we were to 'drill, baby, drill' tomorrow, first of all, do you think that if we drilled all that oil off our coast and Alaska that's there, if we shall all of that, would that reduce the price of oil? No. Why? Because thirty years ago OPEC was producing thirty billion, or thirty million barrels a day of oil. Today OPEC, which has now included two new countries, Ecuador, and I'm forgetting what the other one is. They've added two new countries which in aggregate equal the production of Norway, the north. you know. substantial oil production. OPEC is only producing 32 million barrels thirty years later. Their production has actually gone down because they've added these two new countries.

So what happens if we 'drill, baby, drill'? Let's say that we increase production by 1% for the world. OPEC will simply reduce their production by 1% to keep prices the same. 'Drill, baby, drill' is a lie. Newt Gingrich is promoting a lie. It will not save anybody on the cost of gasoline. I mean, let's just lay some of this stuff out, number one.

And number two, we consume a quarter of the world's oil, yet we only produce 3%. Three one hundredths. Now what makes this important is oil is a strategic resource. And the reason why is because, is it has nothing to do electricity. I had T Boone Pickens on this show and he was, you know, 'we need to get off oil, we need to build wind mills to produce electricity'. Only 2% of our electricity in this country is made by oil. Think about that for a minute. Only 2% of the electricity in the United States is produced from oil. So if we just eliminated all oil-produced electricity, it would be a relatively meaningless improvement in our electricity situation. If we replace those 2% with windmills, it's going to do nothing.

The problem is that our entire transportation sector is driven by oil. That's what makes oil strategic. So how do we, number one, save the auto industry, number two, break the back of al-Qaeda, because they're getting most of, much of their funding from Saudi Arabia and other oil countries, and three, save the climate save the planet, and four, make, strip oil of its strategic value? This is the key to the whole thing. This is the important thing. Oil is a resource worth fighting wars over right now.

As Anne Korin points out from the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and energy analysis, salt was once a strategic resource because it was used to preserve meat, and literally wars were fought over salt. Since refrigeration we don't fight wars over salt any more because we've got better ways to preserve meat. Oil is only a strategic resource because we use it for transportation, and about three quarters of all the oil used in the United States is used for cars and trucks. The other quarter is used to heat homes, make plastics, make pesticides, insecticides and things like that. If we could take that three quarters of our oil that we use and stop using it for transportation, that is used for cars and trucks, and stop using it for cars and trucks, it would no longer be a strategic resource, it would break the back of al-Qaeda.

How do we do that? With our auto industry. I'll tell you how.


OK, let me lay it out really straightforward. First of all, every car that is sold this year will last in the marketplace an average of about seventeen years, 16.8 years. And there are about seventeen million cars sold every year in the United States. So let's. number one, do as Brazil did. Brazil went from 0% of their cars being flex fuel cars to two thirds of their cars being flex fuel cars in three years. Bang!Just like that. I'm sorry, to 70% of the cars and flex two cars in three years simply by saying, 'hey, it's a law; you're gonna sell a car in this country, it's gotta be flex fuel car'. Costs an extra hundred dollars in manufacturing.

So, number one, let's pass a law that says all cars sold in the United States starting,pick some point in time, I mean, January next year would be nice. It's probably, it's not realistic, but as soon as possible all cars must be flex fuel cars. Yes, it's gonna cost extra hundred bucks just like seat belts. And that, keep in mind, that's each car lasting in the market place seventeen years, seventeen million cars a year, this adds up, right.

Once we have flex cars, and number two, let's, and frankly I think this should be mandated, that all cars will be plug in hybrids. Because what we have to do is we have to get our transportation sector off gasoline. Now, there's nothing wrong with having it on electricity, and there's nothing wrong with having it on ethanol or methanol. So, if you have a plug in hybrid, a ten kilowatt battery, a ten kilowatt hour battery which sells right now in China for around 2500 bucks, here in the United States for 5000 because there's no demand because we're not making these plug in hybrid cars like they are in Japan and China right now. But if we started making them here, we're talking $2500 for a battery that'll run a car for twenty miles without any electricity at all. Half of all cars in America run less than twenty miles, fewer than twenty miles a day.

So with plug in hybrids, first of all, you immediately start getting on average around a hundred miles per gallon of gasoline. It doesn't mean they're getting 100 miles per gallon. But for every gallon of gasoline used, with electricity added to it; electricity that can come from wind mills and solar panels. For every gallon of gasoline you get a hundred miles on a plug in hybrid. Make that a flex fuel plug in hybrid. That is, let's say 20% gasoline and 80% ethanol or methanol, and now because only one fifth of that fuel is gasoline and you're getting a hundred miles per gallon of fuel, of liquid fuel in addition to the electricity, you are now getting 500 miles for every gallon of gasoline.

Now, granted we are using, we're putting other sources of fuel into that; electricity, ethanol and methanol. As I said, you can make methanol from anything. You can make methanol, we can make it from corn here, you can make it from sugar cane all over the world. Now we are getting 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. And the importance of Saudi oil suddenly becomes a whole lot less. Who has been fighting this? The oil industry, their lobbyists. And, frankly, the auto industry and their lobbyists, the Republican management of the auto industry has been fighting this also. This is pretty straightforward stuff. As Carl Wilson would say, it's not rocket science, right, Carl? And keep in mind, only 2% of our electricity is generated by oil. So by shifting more electricity into our cars, we're not increasing our consumption of oil. We can put up more wind mills. Or we can burn more coal once we've figured out how, and the technology is there, it hasn't been implemented large scale but it can be, to actually capture the carbon as it's coming out of the smokestacks, from the coal. And then figure out something to do with that carbon.

And then what we have is a dramatic reduction in our in our strategic reliance on oil. Oil no longer becomes a strategic commodity. Once oil is no longer a strategic commodity, we're safe. This is how to fix the whole situation for America. It's, you know, this is very, very straightforward stuff. Mandate flex fuel cars, mandate plug in hybrids. If we're going to bail out the auto companies, say, 'we will bail you out, we're gonna fire most of your board of directors, we're gonna fire much of your senior management that has been in bed with the Republicans and with the oil industry all these years, and this is what you've got to do'. We have to be able to transport people in the United States without using gasoline or oil or diesel fuel. Now, Europe is doing this in large scale by having electric trains. China and Japan are doing it with electric trains. Let's build an electric train system too. Let's get Amtrak off diesel and electrify Amtrak. Let's dramatically expand that. But the whole bottom line here is we need to move our transportation sector and the two thirds of it that are cars and trucks entirely or largely off gasoline, oil or diesel fuel. And we can do that, we can reduce, we can get literally 500 miles to a gallon of gasoline or a gallon of diesel fuel by going to flex fuel plug in hybrid cars. Why don't we do this tomorrow? That's one of the things you have government for. Let's do it tomorrow.


Southern California, San Joaquin valley. If they simply reduced air pollution, it would save more lives. Air pollution from cars and trucks, particularly trucks, they would save more lives than all the people who die in car crashes.Yep. This is the result of a new federal study. "The California Highway Patrol recorded 2,521 vehicular deaths in the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast Air Basin in 2006, compared to 3,812 deaths attributed to respiratory illness caused by particulate pollution... The findings were released Wednesday as the California Air Resources Board considers controversial new regulations to reduce diesel truck emissions." Those regulations are estimated by industry to cost $5.5 billion. "According to a board staff report, the savings in health care costs would be $68 billion". So, industry saves five billion by, actually,you could flip this around; you say industry is saving five billion dollars a year by causing 68 billion dollars a year in illness. But they're not paying that 68 billion dollars and they're going to fight having to pay the five billion dollars to stop the 68 billion dollars worth of expenses.

In fact the study goes on to say, "If pollution levels were to improve" simply "to federal standards, the study says residents of the two air basins would suffer 3,860 fewer premature deaths, 3,780 fewer nonfatal heart attacks and would miss 470,000 fewer days of work annually. School children would miss more than 1.2 million fewer days of school, a savings of $112 million" would be realized in "in caregiver costs" for people sickened by this. "There also would be more than 2 million fewer cases of upper respiratory problems."

It's incredible. It's absolutely incredible. So anyhow, here's the simple solution. Mandate all cars be flex fuel cars, immediately. If you're going to bail out the Big Three tell them they have to start making cars that are not only flex fuel cars but are also plug in hybrids. Jump start the plug in hybrid technology so that those batteries that are selling for 2500 bucks a piece and drive a car for twenty miles without any gasoline or fuel whatsoever. Those batteries will come down in price in the US from around 7000 dollars down to around 2000 dollars which is where they're selling for in China and in India and Japan where they're actually making these kind of vehicles and using them. Let's start, let's rebuild, let's re-invent the American auto industry at the same time we're rebuilding it. And this would then allow us to get 500 miles per gallon of gasoline in our cars. Yes, there are other energy inputs, but not from Saudi Arabia. And thus let us say to the Saudis, 'sorry, we're not going to send you any more money'. Because no matter how much we 'drill, baby, drill', we only control 3% of the world's oil and we consume a quarter of the world's oil, two thirds of that for our transportation sector. Let's get off that merry go round. Very straightforward.


[responding to Ed who had problems with early flex fuel vehicles]

Ethanol and methanol don't contain as much as many calories of energy per gallon as gasoline does, but, you know, they're also a whole lot cheaper. You know, we are taxing ethanol imports into the United States. There's a 54 cent per gallon tariff, import tariff on ethanol into the United States. We do not tax the import of foreign oil. If we taxed the import of foreign oil at the exact same rate that we tax the import, 54 cents a gallon, in terms of energy on ethanol from sugar cane, it would be the equivalent of adding a 23 dollar a barrel tax to oil. And, you know, it's crazy. Why don't we do that? Well, because of the, you know, three big, the monopoly in agriculture, three big agriculture companies pushing for those tariffs.

If we were, there's over a hundred countries in the world, Ed, where sugar cane easily grows and they could become ethanol suppliers to the world. And you say well, it takes more gas to make ethanol than you get out of it. Not true in those countries where there's a lot of sunlight. You're converting sunlight into ethanol, not gasoline, like with, you know, corn in the United States, for example, although corn in the United States isn't absolutely terrible, but, you know, it's not as good. And so you've got a hundred countries in the world that are almost all very poor countries that could become developed or developing countries, which could be improving their economies, simply by importing ethanol from them, again with no input from Saudi Arabia.

All we had to do is do away with the tariff on ethanol, which is protecting our domestic, frankly, the corn industry, the corn sweetener industry, which is producing all of these weird dislocations. Flex fuel cars in Brazil, virtually, you know, 100% of the cars being sold in Brazil right now are flex fuel and it's working just fine for them down there. I would submit to you that if you were having problems with them we need to make it fleet wide, nationwide, and those problems would get worked out very, very quickly. Yes, you'll burn through more fuel but the fuel will be cheaper. You know, right now the cost of ethanol, imported ethanol, if we didn't have that tariff, would be less than two dollars a gallon.

[Ed mentioned the effect of ethanol production on other agriculture products.]

But see, we can make methanol out of agricultural waste. We can make methanol out of anything that contains carbon; out of anything any cellulosic material you can easily make methanol and you can make methanol out of coal. And then, you know, you get the question of, okay, how do we recapture that carbon? That's something that we are developing the technologies for right now, because, you know, releasing, converting coal into anything is again putting more carbon into the atmosphere that was in the earth. But it can be done and we should be looking at how to do that rather than how to get more oil from Saudi Arabia or how to drill, frankly, more oil here in the United States. We need to just strip oil of its strategic value...

[Ed said it was best to have an engine designed for E85, with a higher compression, though that makes it incompatible with gasoline.]

Yeah, these are all still relatively subtle changes compared to what's going in Brazil where it costs a hundred dollars to make a car flex fuel. The manufactured cost is a hundred bucks...

[Ed had asked earlier about the Chevrolet Volt and the EV1.]

With regard to the Volt and the EV1, you know, originally Chevy was talking about an all electric vehicle. Now they're talking basically about a plug in hybrid. I think they need to take it the next step and make it a plug in hybrid flex fuel vehicle. And frankly, that just needs to be the standard for the car industry in the United States, period. We just need to mandate that. I mean, that's the direction that I think that we need to go.

Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.

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