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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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