Tesla's Elon Musk, GM's Mary Barra Join Trump's Economic Restart Task Force

Also today on Speed Lines: Speeding is way up and oil is way down. 

Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Wendell P. Weeks
AP—Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Welcome back to Speed Lines, The Drive's morning roundup of what matters in the world of how we get around. It's Wednesday and we're still in the throes of a pandemic. Sorry. But in the meantime, we can talk about the cars.

The 'Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups'

Yesterday on Speed Lines, we talked about how quickly the U.S. and global economy can "come back" after the coronavirus pandemic is "over." I use quotes there because unlike the end of a war or even a natural disaster, it's hard to say what either of those things even mean—or what success is. There's no roadmap for any of this in modern times. Though the economic downturn isn't underpinned by a housing crisis like in the late 2000s, the drop has been so fast and so hard it's a contraction on par with the Great Depression

As this Automotive News story notes, though the White House is under a great deal of pressure to "reopen" the country's economy, top health officials correctly note the U.S. doesn't yet have the widespread testing and tracking systems in place to keep a coronavirus resurgence down. Nonetheless, President Donald Trump has appointed a task force of several industry leaders to map out how to get things moving again. They include several auto industry officials:

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump named several dozen business leaders to what he called the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups. Among them: General Motors’ Mary Barra, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Mike Manley, Ford Motor Co.’s Bill Ford Jr. and Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk.

There are a number of labor unions represented, but not the UAW.

Trump said he would be speaking to members of the task force by telephone in the coming weeks.

Modern titans of industry, yes, but ones that have sometimes had a contentious relationship with the president and odd takes on the pandemic. Trump most recently was engaged in a war of words with GM's Barra over ventilator production and the Defense Production Act. She's been a regular target of his ire many times over plant closures and U.S. auto production.

As for Musk, he's been slammed for downplaying the pandemic early on and for hyping up chloroquine, a malaria drug with dubious and sometimes deadly effects in clinical trials. (Trump has been big on promoting the drug as well.)

Will this be contentious and deeply weird at times? Yes, almost certainly. I can't wait to see what they all come up with.

Everyone—Yes, Everyone—Is Speeding

You've read about the latest (alleged) Cannonball Run record that happened recently, in large part, because there's almost no traffic on the highways and the attention of first responders is currently elsewhere. I have my own thoughts about Cannonball Runs in general—I think they're stupid and irrelevant in 2020—and at the very least, doing a 'Rona Run is cheating.

But! I certainly get the temptation about tearing ass across the highway with no cars or police cruisers in sight. Do you know who else feels that temptation? Everyone, apparently. Reuters reports that globally, speeding is way up, and cops from Los Angeles to Berlin are adjusting their resources to deal with it:

In New York City, transportation officials reported an increase of more than 60% in the amount of speed camera tickets issued in March compared with the year-ago period. Preliminary city data suggests a similar trend for the first week of April. At the same time, traffic was down more than 90% compared with January in Manhattan, the city’s central borough.

On Bruckner Boulevard in the city’s Bronx borough, a road with a 30 mph speed limit that made up a large share of speeding camera tickets, 5% of drivers traveled faster than 43 mph in the first week of April, according to INRIX data.

In Washington, D.C., where traffic has decreased some 80% in March compared with January, according to StreetLight Data, officials have recorded a 20% jump in March speeding tickets. Of those, violations issued for driving 21-25 mph over the speed limit rose by nearly 40%.

Meanwhile, California Highway Patrol officials in Los Angeles have taken to Twitter, urging road users to slow down by posting images of rollover crashes and wrecked vehicles due to speeding on a nearly daily basis. “It’s very common now to observe drivers speeding at around 100 mph,” California Highway Patrol officer Robert Gomez said.

The Los Angeles Police Department said it is redeploying its resources, establishing a high-speed street task force to position officers at strategic roads. The city has also changed its traffic signals sequence to avoid long stretches of green lights.

Again, I get it. But please remember that our first responders are already pushed to their limits. Stay safe out there for their sakes, if not for your own as well.

The End Of The U.S. Oil Boom

The pandemic has left no sector of the economy untouched. For the oil market, the lack of driving (minus the aforementioned speeding), flying and factory work has been coupled with the end of a Russia-Saudia Arabia pact that controlled output and boosted U.S. shale production. 

As Reuters reports here, we're about to see a pretty apocalyptic situation that upends the U.S. oil boom we've seen over the past decade—one that could leave half a million people in that industry out of work. 

From the story:

Refiners and other buyers are warning they may refuse his oil once contracts expire this month, he said. Or they may offer to buy at a price below his costs, so he is preparing to dip into retirement savings to pay employees, he said.

The governments of global oil producers and consumers are seeking to make unprecedented cuts to overall supply of some 19.5 million bpd. U.S. President Donald Trump heralded the deal to cut supply as one that would save hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs.

But oil prices fell again this week, dropping as much as 10% on Tuesday, because even those cuts may fail to stem the glut. Prices remain far below production costs for many U.S. producers, including those in the U.S. shale fields - the scene of a revolution in the energy industry over the past decade that made the United States the world’s top producer.

Across the United States, up to 240,000 oil-related jobs will be lost this year, about a third of the onshore and offshore oilfield workforce, estimates consultancy Rystad Energy.

“It’s not ever going to be like it was," says one Texas oilman who's telling friends it's time to leave the business. 

On Our Radar

Toyota to cut production in Japan in May as coronavirus squeezes demand(Reuters)

Zoox agrees to settle trade secrets lawsuit with Tesla (Automotive News)

Porsche R&D boss on why Tesla is not a direct rival (Automotive News)

Read These To Seem Smart And Interesting

Inside Kanye West's Vision for the Future (GQ)

Just Getting Into Mid-Century Modern? Don’t, the 2020s Are All About the ’80s (Gear Patrol)

Our Pandemic Summer (The Atlantic)

Your Turn

Are you speeding more during the pandemic? It's cool, you can tell us. We're not cops. We have to tell you if we're cops, and we aren't.