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Two Billion Cars: Driving TowardsSustainabilityKaren Anderton aa Transport Studies Unit , Oxford University , Oxford, UnitedKingdomPublished online: 20 Apr 2010.
To cite this article: Karen Anderton (2010) Two Billion Cars: Driving Towards Sustainability,Transport Reviews: A Transnational Transdisciplinary Journal, 30:5, 675-676, DOI:10.1080/01441640903187092
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Transport Reviews, Vol. 30, No. 5, 675676, September 2010
0144-1647 print/1464-5327 online/10/050675-02 DOI: 10.1080/01441640903187092
Taylor and FrancisTTRV_A_418882.sgm10.1080/01441640903187092Transport Reviews0144-1647 (print)/1464-5327 (online)Original Article2009Taylor & Francis0000000002009KarenAndertonkaren.email@example.comTwo Billion Cars: Driving Towards SustainabilityDaniel Sperling and Deborah GordonNew York, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 320, ISBN 978-0-19-537664-7, 13.99(hbk)
Two Billion Cars is a compelling and detailed insight into how the happenings ofthe last 100 years have allowed our love affair with the car to develop. As compre-hensive in historical context as it is in political milieu, Sperling and Gordon offeran excellent fact-based overview about how the automobile has become intricatelyweaved into our social fabric, whilst simultaneously explicating the damage thatour dependency has brought. It is through this lens that they make rational predic-tions about the continued and potentially enhanced prevalence of the car in futuresociety, whilst positing a broad, encompassing scenarioFuturama III (p. 236), asa means to minimize the damage that an increased global vehicle fleet wouldincur.
The first chapter of the book sets the scene for the rest to followexplaining therise of the car as the dominant transportation mode in the twentieth centuryandthe environmental challenges, particularly climate change, that ubiquitous car usehas contributed to. The second offers a high-level overview of how and why acar monoculture (p. 14) has developed and introduces the types of alternativeframework that could help redress the balance between the need for mobility anda lower carbon future.
Taken collectively, Chapters 36 do a wonderful job of disseminating thecomplexities of our current systemfrom car industry, through oil and consum-erseach constituent part of the problem and their contribution is considered.Whilst always keeping an eye on the challenges of the future and the need for thegas-guzzling to cease, the authors provide the reader with invaluable informationabout the causes. Looking at the diminutive details of how the relationshipsbetween and operations of Detroits car companies have contributed significantlyto locking-in the monoculture in Chapter 3, is as helpful to the reader as the samelevel of information about the workings of and political wrangling associated withthe oil industry found in Chapter 5. Chapter 4 offers insight of previous attemptsto encourage alternative fuels to market, coupled with pragmatic explanations ofhow and why each of these have met insurmountable obstacles. Similarly, Chapter6 is a consideration of how and why consumers are led to vehicle purchaseswhat compels one with an SUV and another with a Prius. This books strength isits ability to offer substance in a very digestible format.
Through Chapters 7 and 8 we are confronted with context-specific information,respectively looking at Californiaits history and emerging leadership andChinaits rapidly growing car infrastructure, the imperative for it to embrace
676 Book Review
fossil fuel alternatives and potentially lead the market. These are strong casestudy pieceswith California offering a microcosmic view of the global car infra-structure whilst simultaneously working towards a comprehensive 3 leggedstoolfuels, vehicles, vehicle miles travelled (VMT)approach to reducingtransport emissions. By looking at China we are steered away from the somewhatUS-centric feel of the book, which is positive. Chinas current lust for automobilesis shunning its sustainable transport infrastructurebikes and pedestriansandmarginalizing it to make way for the car. And like no other, the country has theability to contribute drastically to global greenhouse gas emissions if the wrongdevelopment trajectory is chosen. Sperling and Gordon again contextualize bril-liantly both the rapidly evolving situation in China and the necessity for the coun-try to look towards fossil fuel free, smarter growth in order to prevent the worstconsequences of climate change.
The volume is concluded with a host of practical imperatives for policymakersto heed. Intelligent in that it considers both the shortcomings of and factors contrib-uting to each previous failed attempt, the books recommendations for the carculture of the future cover policy, regulation, behaviour change, R&D in alternativefuels and vehicles, technology transfer and perhaps most importantly, the acknowl-edgement that it wont happen overnight.
As the tome was produced by prominent US transportation professionals withinfluential roles to play outside academia, this book sits comfortably on the cuspbetween popular non-fiction and academic prose. It is not weighted in theory butI am confident that it is accessible and informative to scholars and interestedcivilians alike.
Whilst the authors sporadically use global examples to highlight key policyinterventionssuch as Londons congestion charge and Brazils progress withethanol productionthis book is clearly rooted in California, as demonstrated bythe books foreword, penned by Governor Schwarzenegger. Yet the depth towhich they have taken their investigation, regardless of its starting point, doesdeliver a holistic picture. Whilst the inherent problems associated with the motorindustry were displayed as deeply ingrained in society throughout the book, Ihave nevertheless been left somewhat optimistic about the ability to achieve themagnitude of change needed through Sperling and Gordons clear and concisedirections for the future.
Karen Anderton Transport Studies Unit, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom
2010 Karen Anderton