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Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability Hardcover – January 13, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. 15 b&w photos.
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From Booklist

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. --Colleen Mondor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (January 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195376641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195376647
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.3 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,172,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Ford as well as Toyota are accused of having created and supported the longstanding love affair between the driver and the car.
Birte Gam-jensen
Still, this "Futurama III" scenario they describe seems very distant, and a bit dischordant with the specific, far more pragmatic proposals they present.
tomh
You're going to read more about that in this book and your eyes will probably be opened to exactly how it will impact so many things.
Kyle Tolle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anne TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I grew up in L.A. and I didn't know that the blue sky in picture books was a real thing! I am genuinely serious about this. When I was 18 years old, I traveled to Oregon, got off the plane, and saw that the sky was actually blue--I had thought that it was a myth.

This book is really about the reason for those gray L.A. skies I grew up with. It is one of those books that everyone "should" read. It's important and it matters because it explains a huge issue we are going to have to deal with in the near future and beyond. I was fascinated by the interesting details that the authors included about the car industry and the development of different types of engines.

But, this book is so packed with information that you need to press on and wade into the deep end of it and then keep on swimming. It is a textbook. I assumed that it would be much lighter because of Schwarzenegger's contribution, but he only wrote the forward. As a textbook, I give it a very high recommendation. It is a very, very readable textbook. An easy, light read, this book is not.

As opposed to the other readers, I don't feel that the authors focused too much on California. The chapter that discusses California's situation and the actions that its state government has taken was very appropriate to the overall discussion of the book. One thing was not acknowledged in this chapter, though, and that was the horrible lack of public transporation and mass transit in California. I wish that there had been more of a discussion of mass transit in the book.

This book is definitely worth reading. The best comparison I can think of is that if you enjoy reading the magazine the Economist, then this book should be right up your alley.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By tomh on November 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Authors Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon have written a book describing their proposals for how we must deal with the energy and climate implications of personal transportation. The title is based on the projection of the number of cars we would expect to see in the coming years, as a number of countries develop their economies, notably India and China. With personal transportation accounting for 30% of US carbon emissions, and some very large percentage of our crude oil consumption, it is clear that the transportation picture must change. In the end, the authors make a case for a number of general solutions, many based on their efforts in California.

The book will be published soon, but its timing is a bit unfortunate; frequently there are sections that refer to the pre-financial-crisis state of the world: high gasoline and oil prices, a regressive Bush administration in place, and a resonable set of assumptions about the availability of capital, car companies that were in bad shape but not near-death, and so on. So much has changed in the last few months that even before being published, in some ways the book seems dated. Of course this is mainly a superficial problem, as the policy proposals and observations in most ways transcend the presumably temporal problems the world economy is undergoing, and the new political landscape in a more enlightened Obama administration. Still, it is hard to read parts of the book only because it is clear that so much that is relevant to the problem has changed.

The book is organized in 9 chapters. The first 6 chapters present the history and current state of what the authors call the automobile monoculture: a world where most forms of transportation have been squeezed out to make room for one form of transit: the car.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Gallagher VINE VOICE on July 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Two Billion Cars is a very informative book on transportation and sustainability issues. The premise of the book is that currently we have one billion cars, but in twenty years, the planet will have about two billion cars. If there are no changes, this growth in cars will be disastrous in terms of energy usage, congestion, and global warming. The first two chapters are fairly dry, but the book gets more interesting in chapter 3, "Breaking Detroit's Hold on Energy and Climate Policy", which is a terrific short history on how America got to be so car-centric.

The book will appeal most to people interested in sustainability issues as they relate to transportation and climate change.

Points made in the book:
1. Almost all the growth in vehicles will come from India and China, with annual growth rates in vehicles about 7-8 percent annually. The United States has a current growth rate in vehicles of less than 1 percent annually, so we are less affected by local pollution and congestion, although global warming issues would still be a concern. Whatever India and China do (or fail to do) will have the biggest effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Nothing will get people out of their cars and using mass-transit in the foreseeable future, not even much higher fuel prices. Therefore, making the personal passenger vehicle more environmentally-friendly is the key.

3. We are nowhere near peak oil. The amount of unconventional oil such as tar sands is quite large.

4. The best way to promote energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to impose very high fuel mileage standards.
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