When Barack Obama announced that the government will use its fist to wave onto the highways of America cars that get 39 miles to a gallon of liquefied switch grass or something, he said, "Everybody wins."
Everybody? What country has he been living in? This marks the end of the internal combustion engine as we knew it, and it is the way Americans have defined, designed and literally driven much of the nation's culture for as long as anyone can remember. Car culture is America's culture.
It's 2016. Imagine a Brian Wilson ever thinking to write: "And she'll have fun, fun, fun til her daddy takes her Prius away."
This tension over how we live arrived before the world began standing on its head over global warming. The guys in the hemi-powered drones used to mock the granola and Birkenstock crowd. Look who's on top now.
"Everybody wins?" Not quite. What's winning is a worldview that goes deeper than the data beneath global warming. The gasoline cars they want to turn into scrap were about a lot more than the thrill of roaring on.
The cars and their culture were a manifestation of what made the U.S. really different. The cars, like the country, were big, fast and unfettered. Their drivers were delirious with the possibility of finding something new in life.
When Americans grew up, that's just what a lot of them did -- win. Now, it looks like we're being asked to throttle down to government-approved survival. . . Save the planet and lose the nation's heart.
Maybe the car culture will revert to where it began, when the whiskey runners in the South ran from the revenuers. This time the cars themselves will be bootlegged -- fat, fast and gas-powered -- racing through the night on off-map roads while the National Green Corps -- enacted by Congress in the second Obama term -- looks for them from ethanolic choppers overhead.