Thursday, June 12, 2008

RECOVERED HISTORY: ROAD TO PERDITION

MORTON MINTZ, NATION - High gas prices and our "addiction" to foreign oil, as President Bush has called it, have roots in a nearly forgotten criminal conspiracy. It was this conspiracy that ordained our extreme dependence on cars and trucks and the inevitable and all-but-irreversible results, including filthy air, congestion, long commutes and accelerated global warming.

In 1949, three of our largest corporations--General Motors, Standard Oil of California (SoCal, now Chevron) and Firestone Tire and Rubber (now Japan's Bridgestone)--were convicted of having conspired for more than a decade to replace highly efficient urban electric transit systems with bus lines. The bus lines' operators contracted never to buy new equipment "using any fuel or means of propulsion other than" petroleum. GM, SoCal and Firestone were fined $5,000 each, the maximum the antitrust laws then allowed. GM's treasurer, also convicted, was fined $1.

GM's $5,001 punishment somehow failed to deter it from continuing for six years to acquire electric-powered rail and bus properties and convert them to gasoline and diesel. The conspiracy-to-monopolize convictions, upheld on appeal, never received attention commensurate with their impact. In 1974, however, they did become a subject of Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee hearings on the broad topic of auto industry reform.

Strikingly, the subcommittee chairman, Philip Hart, was the senior senator from Michigan, where the auto industry was dominant and where GM was the dominant corporation. An assistant subcommittee counsel, Bradford Snell, had researched the conspiracy for American Ground Transport, a study financed by the Stern Fund. GM, he testified, had led the destruction of more than 100 electric-rail transit systems in forty-five cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore and St. Louis. . .

1 Comments:

At June 12, 2008 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

High gas prices and our "addiction" to foreign oil...have roots in a nearly forgotten criminal conspiracy.

That's half the story. The other half is that Reagan rolled back all the energy reforms made in the late 70's, in response to domestic Peak Oil and production declines during that time. Carter's efforts to initiate energy conservation and transition the country to more sustainable energy production, from solar panels on the White House, to increased auto fuel efficiency, were all dismantled by Reagan and subsequent administrations under pressure from the oil industry. Now, the nation is facing the disastrous consequences.

 

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