Oxford University Press: NY, 2009.
Sperling and Gordon are in the thick of creating energy policy for the world's future. They have together written a comprehensive analysis of the situation today and possibilities - and even necessities - that will put the world on track toward energy sustainability, concentrating on transportation. The discussion starts with what California has done to lead the way, and what they plan to do. Options are described in detail along with the policies that are likely to be implemented in the U.S. A chapter focuses on China, because they are in a unique position in which startup companies can develop innovative products and ideas cheaply, and the hope is that their accomplishments in the transportation field will spread globally. The book explains not just vehicles and fuels but also behavior and practices that can lead to more energy efficiency, a cleaner environment, and a robust economy.
I appreciate such a thorough examination of the transportation issues. I, like many others, want very much for a sustainable transportation culture to be created, but have little concept of how it will come to be. I would like to invest in alternative industry for my own use and in support of our future as a whole (country, world), but given the economic situation in our country, we have little money to invest - even when it comes to buying a vehicle or updating our heating system. Because of the state of our economy, I do not think the authors' suggestion that we have a gasoline price floor of $4 is a good idea. When gas reached this price in 2008, it hurt many families. Those families cannot make alternative choices because of the expense. Even when gas was only at $2, it was driving inflation that I believe was a major factor (though not publicly noted) in the mortgage crisis. A price floor was discussed in the 1990s as well and dismissed, because it was thought to be political suicide. I do think the carbon budgeting is an idea with great merit, partly because it would push people to educate themselves about alternatives, and partly because they could make choices that are not only extra expenses. I also like the possibilities of the new mobility options. I have seen some, such as the Zipcar. I'm hoping to see more, such as small vehicles more flexible than bus systems and bus fleets that behave similar to rail traffic with more flexibility.
There are a couple important points that were left out. In the discussion of why the price of oil was so high, the author mentioned that the Big Oil (Western) companies refused to invest their excess profit due to investments in the 1980s not panning out. Instead, they decided to hand 40% of the profits to the shareholders. Left out of the discussion was that U.S. citizens were told that the price was tied to the stock value, with an increased buying of stock because the companies were paying higher dividends.
In discussion of the Prius as an icon, it was noted that customers were buying the Prius symbolically, as a social statement both about themselves and as a message to automakers and the public - a message about being socially and environmentally conscious and about breaking the oil companies' hold on us. Most did not buy the car to save money, because the accrued amount saved per gallon was less than the higher price tag (at least it was with gas $2 per gallon) - especially when compared to cars similar in size such as the Corolla and the Civic (though the Prius is slightly roomier). Two things not mentioned in this discussion are that the Prius was the first alternative vehicle that could be used as a family car while being close to what an average family could afford and that consumers hoped that the Prius was a step again toward mass marketing electric vehicles for families. I believe the key to success with electric vehicles will be the mass marketing of family cars. Until an automaker does this, success will be limited. Toyota is no longer looking like the company to do it; they are too comfortable in their lead spot today. Tesla Motors may be the next possibility, though they may not be ready for mass marketing. Possibly another company to watch is Nissan, as Arizona is experimenting with charging stations to be used with Nissan cars. Nissan may be looking to go electric in a big way, since it would propel them up to the level of Toyota and Honda. I found the discussion of Chinese entrepreneurs regarding small vehicles interesting, as that is also a sector from where the electric vehicles in the near future could spring (providing the Big Three is not able to shut them out of the U.S. market).
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