The big shock that could hit the US

Full of good intentions, the US is trying to go green. But if it is serious about climate change, it will need a revolution in town-planning, and in lifestyles, writes Tom Bulford.

A visit to Disney World in Florida made me think that the USA could do with something to shock it out of its complacency.

At a live music show at the Epcot amusement park a short-legged man, his belly drooping over his tight belt, sang of his pride at being an Americin'. The USA, he told his audience, by now waving their arms aloft, is the greatest country on earth.

Look around you,' he implored. You see Brits, you see Japanese, you see Chinese, you see Norwegians and they have all come here, to the US of A.' And with this proof of his country's preeminence, his voice soared to a climax.

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I wanted to shout out, to ask him to explain why there are so many Americans here in Britain, and whether this affected his theories of national supremacy. But I don't suppose it would have made any difference. The USA is the greatest country on earth because everyone there believes that it is, and I guess that is a winning argument.

And yet perhaps a shock is coming. Real estate is in a bust.' Food prices in the USA are soaring just as they are everywhere else. The price of gasoline, though still less than half the price we pay, has hit an unheard of $4 per gallon. But at least most of us have the option of walking to the shops. In the USA you cannot do anything fetch a pint of milk, take your child to school or visit the doctor - without a round trip of a few miles.

Environmentally friendly aspirations?

Full of good intentions, the USA is trying to go green. Corporations compete to prove their environmental credentials. And yet huge cars cruise the highways, air conditioners run at full blast in empty homes and no meal is completed without leaving a mound of cardboard wrapping, plastic cutlery and surplus food.

It is hard to conceive how any society could be set up to be more destructive of the environment. If the USA is serious about climate change it will need a revolution in town-planning, and in lifestyles. There is no sign of this happening. Everybody at least everybody in Florida is too comfortable to wish for this. So life goes on a usual. The neon lights shine, the Winnebagos guzzle gas, the country and western siren laments her cheatin' man. The scrambled eggs are powdered, the buffets are All U Can Eat.' Television, so dependent upon commercials and ten second sound-bites, is unwatchable. The newspapers are provincial and tame.

In the background, soldiers die in Iraq, innocent citizens are routinely murdered by gunmen, and weird sects of wife-beating paedophiliacs go about their business. The interminable election campaign rumbles on. Without any meaningful track record to speak of the debates is all about the supposed character of the participants. Who can sustain the right faade all the way to November?

Does anybody care? Life is sweet. The government will throw enough money at the banks to keep them afloat. The stock market will inevitably reflect the USA's might. What is there to worry about? Just one thing it seems.

Andrew Stoddard, resident of Kansas City, has something on his mind. There isn't a day that goes by in my life without me thinking about it,' he agonises. And I think a lot of us are the same way. Once you start down the road, I don't know of anyone who does not get obsessed with it.'

And what is this thing that is keeping Stoddart awake at night? Is it sliding share prices, the value of his home, the troubles of the Middle East or the hole in the ozone layer? No.

It is America's latest sport. Yes, it is barbecuing.

This article is taken from Tom Bulford's free daily email Penny Sleuth'

Tom worked as a fund manager in the City of London and in Hong Kong for over 20 years. As a director with Schroder Investment Management International he was responsible for £2 billion of foreign clients' money, and launched what became Argentina's largest mutual fund. Now working from his home in Oxfordshire, Tom Bulford helps private investors with his premium tipping newsletter, Red Hot Biotech Alert.

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