In what must have been 1930 at the latest, Mrs Robinson, one of James Thurber's 'aged coloured washerwomen' prophesied:
"... the oil supplies of the world are being dried up in order to prevent future wars. This will also put and end forever to pleasure driving, but that is alright because, if people kept on riding in cars, they would soon lose the use of both legs, and the life of man would pass from the earth."Which put her several decades in front of most of the politicians, technocrats and businessmen of the last 80 years. Ignoring those words in that little New Yorker sketch is now costing the US taxpayer $34,000,000,000 - at the latest count. And has, to do full justice to Mrs Robinson, cost millions of US people their health - if the alarming obesity statistics are to be believed. And as to the future of the 'life of man on earth', her instinct is as eloquent as David Attenborough and all his gorillas. The car is a bit of an environmental and social culprit all round, in spite of its many short term benefits. And the US dependency on cars makes it one of the culprits of global warming and the global economic crash - which oversold credit on car purchases just as it did on the property market.
Obama's proposals for a green, revolutionary automotive industry, with its hi-tech holy grail of cheap, sustainable mobility, are only a possibility and are primarily a means of preventing mass unemployment rather than a long-term environmental strategy, but they are a step to satisfying the historical inevitability of Mrs Robinson's wisdom while at the same time giving Jeremy Clarkson time to finish his memoirs in peace. I can hardly wait.