Letter From California
02/21/10 0531.22 PST
San Jose, California
Tesla Motors was very much in the news last week as 3 of its workers were killed in a light plane crash in East Palo Alto, not so much for the loss their people or the prospects of their company, really, but rather for the dramatic fiery scene that made for good television and knocked out power for a day to one of the most snobbish, educated, wealthy elite cities in the world, Palo Alto.
Very soon on the other side of the bay NUMI, the strange hybrid automobile plant of GM and Toyota, will shutter its busy plant forever, our Japanese cousins finally disgusted with the failing perfidy of GM to function in any basic manner and ceasing all operations with them. The Great Mall of Fremont used to be the Ford plant, but no one knows what will become of the sprawling NUMI complex, the Great Mall is hurting mightily along with all retail in these times and very likely NUMI will simply age as a sad shell of neglected nothing that looks worse every year, a painful daily reminder of a State and people abandoned to what should have been one of our premier employer and manufacturing industries, automobiles, of course, for Christ’s sake are we in America’s California or what?
Tesla got a very sweet loan deal from the Department of Energy last year as part of a Dept. of Energy program and a small partnership from Daimler—not to mention the piddling $70 million forked over by one of the founders, Musk—to keep going. If in fact the planned IPO is successful (the financial analyses is downright dreadful for this IPO, but they’re doing it anyway) Tesla will transition out of the ridiculous shit-hot six-figure roadster it now produces into some kind of sedan, the S model, they call it.
I don’t know if ordinary families will be able to afford it, I rather doubt it, but I still dream of owning one. Not only will the Bay Area have a real automobile manufacturer run by heroes who still believed in our people, we could be in a surreal world where Californians zip around in cool comfortable cars that have zero emissions with a zero carbon footprint on our atmosphere chemistry.
Easily one of the most frustrating experiences in modern times is to listen to cretins who stupidly pass along the idea that electric cars are merely new carbon gobblers, since they consume fossil-fuel generated electricity. Well welcome to the 21st fucking century, Americans, solar and wind generation could wipe out 100% of the carbon footprint for electricity here in California in 20 years, our existing nuclear plants running to keep the grid up. I could drive a marvelously quiet car with zero emissions running on sun power I meticulously tracked against what I put into the grid from my own roof micro-generation system.
How I hope Tesla succeeds, at least they were willing to dream and try while GM and Ford wouldn’t dream of forever abandoning internal combustion, a grossly inefficient polluting technology I loathe. I often wonder what it would be like to live day to day, twenty-four-seven, under eternally blue skies, skies as the Earth was meant to be lived upon, free of smog that hurts us in so many ways. Free of the knowledge we didn’t maim and kill half a world away for the energy to do it all, free to spend all that Department of Defense money to keep the old system running on our little people, at last.
Free to know with sure gladness that the planet that was handed to us will be given over to our children for them to enjoy and thrive upon. Is that really too much to ask, Exxon? Too much for you to handle, British Petroleum? Unto the shitpile of history you go, then, we can’t burn oil for cars anymore, none at all, and left behind is all you’ll get.
How I would so much like to see that story start to play out right here in my front yard, Tesla is a 20 minute drive from here. We’ve got bad and seemingly intractable political problems right now but they can be solved, yes, with sincere Democratic Party leadership for the little people. A huge part of that would be showing the world we still are a cool place to manufacture cars for the 21st century and beyond, empirical knowledge cars will always be made in California.