“Two Billion Cars”

Or, as the subtitle rather optimistically puts it, Driving Towards Sustainability. Sounds a bit like tree-felling towards biodiversity. Well, there are already more than one billion cars on the planet, and these authors -- energy and transport mavens Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon -- see an inevitable rise (largely driven by China and India) to two billion in a few decades. How to minimise their impact on the climate?

The twin prongs of a solution are: emerging alternative-transportation developments (such as Bus Rapid Transit, platoons of buses in dedicated lanes); and alternative fuel sources for cars, a field distorted in the United States by subsidies for one of the worst options, corn ethanol.

One industry that gets off lightly here is Big Oil: “By any measure, oil companies are managed responsibly,” the authors write soothingly. One of them used to work for Chevron. But automobiles, they reckon, will inevitably move to fully electric drive, and governments should get more involved in shaping transport policy through incentives and taxes, because there has been a “market failure”.

Two Billion Cars
Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon
Oxford University Press, 2009

— By Steven Poole


Copyright Guardian News and Media Limited, 2009