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…And More Books…

January 20th, 2012

I’ve finished reading Peter De Lorenzo’s book, Witch Hunt, which I mentioned in my last post. And I’m disappointed. It’s essentially a collection of De Lorenzo’s posts from his blog, Autoextremist.com, during the past few years of turmoil in the U.S. auto industry. While there are a few interesting observations within its 328 pages, it’s essentially one long rant about the demise of the American manufacturing sector, filled with vague (and not-so-vague) insults hurled at everyone in federal government, the media, the environmental movement, American consumers, the UAW, and the auto industry (excepting Bob Lutz of GM and Alan Mulally of Ford, on whom De Lorenzo heaps praise so excessive it’s embarrassing), and with an overuse of clichéd catch-phrases so prolific that at times it’s difficult to read. (By the end of the book, everytime I read the words “that’s NOTGONNAHAPPEN.COM!” I swear I could hear studio-audience laughter from an episode of Three’s Company.)

Early on in the book, I decided that De Lorenzo must be a newcomer/outside observer to the auto industry (uh, much like I am) to put forth his wildly unfounded opinions with hardly any facts to support them. But apparently I’m wrong – Peter is a long-time auto industry advertising/marketing exec and journalist, and is an acquaintance of many of the higher-ups in Detroit. His background gives some of his anecdotes much-needed credibility. Unfortunately, that credibility is overshadowed by his obvious disdain for anyone who wasn’t entrenched in Michigan’s automobile manufacturing sector for the past several decades, as well as by his thinly veiled fantasy for De Lorenzo himself to be named CEO of General Motors.

I’m glad I read the book. But it certainly didn’t make me smarter.

On the other hand, an acquaintance recently loaned me a book, Turning Oil Into Salt, by Gal Luft and Anne Korin of the Set America Free Coalition. Anytime a book is put forth by a “coalition”, one has to think it’s simply to promote that group’s agenda. And that’s true in this case. Fortunately, the coalition appears to be legitimately non-partisan, and their agenda is to end oil’s status as a strategic commodity, by promoting fuel choice. “So, why would you want to turn oil into salt?” That’s a metaphor: In centuries past, salt was a strategic commodity. It was once the only way to preserve food, which meant that it was a matter of survival. Those with salt held particular power over those who needed it (i.e., everyone else). Wars were fought over it. It had a major influence on geo-politics of the time.

…Sound familiar? …Once the refrigerator was invented, salt became just a commodity. We still need it. But it’s not a matter of our daily survival. We have options.

Turning oil into salt means “stripping oil of its status as a strategic commodity” for our transportation needs. Luft and Korin argue that this can be done by offering fuel-choice in our vehicles. Flex-fuel plug-in hybrids that run on electricity, gasoline, ethanol, methanol, natural gas, or diesel and bio-diesel, from a variety of feedstocks is technologically achievable (though, as the authors rightfully point out, involves challenges that could initially be painful and costly), and would allow us fuel-choice that would demote petroleum to just another commodity, and release the hold that OPEC nations have over us through its manipulation of the global oil market.

Turning Oil Into Salt is a quick read, and it only touches the surface of a variety of issues that must be addressed to achieve what the authors envision. Although at times a little off-putting by its repetitive attribution of many of the global issues stemming from oil as being tied to “radical Islam”, in the end the book makes the reader think.

And that makes us smarter.

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