Briefing: 2000s

With the 2000 “election” of oilman George Bush II, control of all branches of government is gained by the Republican Party. The Clean Air Act has been all but scrapped.  Bills to open the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge are attached to every energy-related piece of legislation (defeated each time).

Rather than pass proposed legislation requiring automakers to make their cars more fuel efficient, a $100,000 tax break for SUVs is kept in place, in effect subsidizing the purchase of gas-guzzlers.  

In 2002, to secure multinational corporate control of the Middle East oil, the renegade Hussein regime is deposed by an American invasion.  All-terrain military vehicles known as “HumVees” are popularized by the war, and a civilian version, the “Hummer”, hits the showrooms boasting 11 miles per gallen.  

Meanwhile, Japanese automakers offered their own brands of pumped-up SUVs like Toyota’s Land Rover, but also initiated a line of “hybrid” and electric vehicles, achieving extremely high miles per gallon of gasoline. The Toyota Prius (over 50 mpg) has made significant inroads into the American market.  

In 2004, political stability in Iraq has deteriorated, and gas prices at the pump have risen to the highest levels since the 1973 embargo. At the same time, jobs are more and more scarce, the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, and times are tough for the working and lower middle class. 

Will Americans begin to demand more fuel-efficient cars like the Prius, as they did in the 1970s?  Or will strategic reserves, new sources of crude oil, and military control of oil-producing nations continue to fuel the American craving for super-SUVs like the Land Rover and Hummer H2?

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