Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability

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This look at the global automobile industry explains how such a staggering number of autos came to be, and how we can sustain them all and the planet at the same time. The range of topics is wide; one of the most interesting chapters looks at the psychology of hybrid vehicle purchasers: "at least for the early buyers... it's about the symbolism of 'doing the right thing,' even if the individual contribution is infinitesimally small." The fortunes of fuel-sippers are also considered in relation to gas prices: in the year GM launched the Hummer brand and Toyota unveiled the Prius, gas prices at "near historic lows" made the Hummer ubiquitous in cities and suburbs. Elsewhere, Sperling and Gordon examine the problem of China's car ownership explosion, but return repeatedly to the "pioneering role" of California. Sperling and Gordon are upfront with their California ties (Sperling serves on the California Air Resources Board, Gordon has worked with the California Energy Commission, Gov. Schwarzenegger provides the foreword), and though they profile somegenuinely groundbreaking work, it can read more like public relations than objective reporting; further, some proposed solutions (personal "carbon budgets") read like parodies of Left Coast eco-liberalism. Luckily, there's enough grounding global perspective to save the text from too much California dreaming.

With statistical data, charts, graphs, and erudite analysis, Sperling and Gordon present the most thorough study of the automobile industry general readers could hope to find. The authors, with a foreword from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, summarize the history of the Big Three automakers and then expand their scope to include Toyota, Honda, and others. Social scientists will appreciate the pages devoted to America’s long-established car culture while futurists will be intrigued by evidence that we have exported that culture to other countries, placing the entire planet at risk. Far from simply an environmental anti-car tome, however, this volume summarizes alternatives to our current reliance on oil and explains in detail why alternatives have not been utilized. (Fans of the electric car should take special note.) Automobile industry wonks will find much to consider, but the book’s audience should also include those with an interest in U.S. labor history and the political relationship between oil giants and Detroit. This is an American story with international ramifications, and mandatory reading in the current economic crisis.

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Dr. Dan Sperling presents his insight of current strategies and research, and promulgates his unique and optimistic view of the rapidly evolving transportation and energy solutions of the future. He unveils how new technologies will allow consumers to access a suite of transportation and energy applications, ranging from dynamic real-time ride sharing applications, to programs that help consumers conserve energy in their cars and homes.

• MrEnergyCzar rating is 3 stars. As far as the cover, this is about 15 lanes going one way, the only place I can think of this being is the US Mexico border. Please comment if you know. There are about a billion trucks and cars on the road today.

• In 20 years we'll have 2 billion. I do not see that being possible however. The book gives a good history of the love affair with the car. The book offers solutions to get to two billion cars via innovations and low carbon fuels. I don't this can happen because it take a lot of oil to mine the elements and make the actual car.

• I think that Chindia, where a lot of the car growth is happening, they will add a lot more cars because they use much less oil per person. This means they can handle much higher fuel prices. In the states, we'll have less cars on the road. More scooters and bikes, but less cars.

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