[R-G] THE CRIME THAT HELPED LEAVE THE US UNPREPARED FOR THE OIL CRISIS
nick at faunusherbs.com
Sat Jun 3 12:16:01 MDT 2006
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
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.
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