25 May, 2010

Well, do you drive a car?

This has been the response from some to the growing outrage and disgust over the oil leak in the Mexican gulf.  (It’s not a “spill.”  A spill is a finite amount that breaks its containment.  This slick is coming directly from the source, and it keeps on coming.)  The inference is that anyone who uses petrol, or any petroleum-based product, is implicated in this disaster. 

Let me be honest:  I like stuff.
I like stuff that lights up.  I like stuff that makes noises.  I like stuff that connects to other stuff.  I like stuff that stores lots of other stuff inside it.  Most of the stuff I like is made mostly of plastics, and that means oil.  Most of the stuff I like is made overseas, and that means more oil.  And I like going to places where there’s other stuff, which means lots more oil.  Most of the stuff I like is packaged in plastic too – more oil.  In fact, I dislike the packaging very much, but I like the stuff more than I dislike the packaging, so I end up erring on the side of stuff.  Not for me, the life of zero-footprint self-sufficiency.  I like my stuff too much.

Hello, my name is Bill and I’m a consumer.

So, to those who rationalise the BP disaster, we’re all a little bit culpable. 
Well wait just an oil-drillin’ minute!  I didn’t ask BP to drill there.  And I didn’t ask them to hire those contractors.  The fact that I drive a car doesn’t mean I have to condone industrial manslaughter.  (Please let’s not forget that eleven people were killed in the explosion.)  Do you have to be teetotal to condemn drink driving?  Do you have to be celibate to abhor rape?  I’ll take my share of the blame for the industrialised world’s dependence on oil.  I admit I’m part of the problem there.  But I’m calling the bluff of anyone who tries to draw a line between consumers of oil-based products and what’s happening in the Mexican gulf.  That was not done in my name.  I live in a house but that doesn’t mean I have to accept shonky builders.  I use Windows but that doesn’t mean I have to condone Microsoft’s business practices.  If BP had been putting similar resources into renewable energy, I would be cheering them on.

And it’s at this point, that this article takes a left turn with an idea that only came to me half-way through writing it.  The oil companies and car manufacturers have a chicken-and-egg problem when it comes to sustainable energy.  There’s no point in energy companies developing better energy sources if the car companies keep making vehicles that run on petrol.  And there’s no point in car makers producing hybrid or hydrogen powered cars if there’s nowhere that will fuel them.  And if the car manufacturers and oil companies were to work on a design together, that would be collusion.  It’s a rather convenient situation for them all.

What we need is a car designed by Apple.  The reason Apple products tend to be so reliable is because the hardware and the software is designed in tandem.  For some reason, Apple gets away with this monopolistic behaviour and is praised for it where Microsoft would be pilloried and probably sued if they did the same thing.  I wrote at length on that a couple of years ago and will post it here later for reference.  What we need is for Apple’s holistic design techniques to be applied to the automotive industry.  They would design the engine and the fuel source at the same time.  Then, since anything with an Apple logo on it inspires instant fascination and desire, retailers would have to do whatever it takes to get it onto the market.  Naturally, the designs would be copied by others within 12 months, but that’s kind of what we want, isn’t it?

Look into it, Steve.  A lot of people thought the world didn’t need another phone either.

1 comment:

  1. You use Windows? That's crazy.

    You should upload this at an Australian news site.