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On page 176 the authors stumble and inadvertently hit upon the true problem. It was clearly a mistake that this problem was mentioned at all because the idea was never mentioned elsewhere in the book or in the index. This statement could have been made about every one of the various solutions which they did mention.

Careful modeling of this plan for the future found that in the most aggressive travel reduction scenario, vehicle travel dropped only 16 percent per household in 2050, not enough to offset population increases.

It is a sad commentary on a magnificent effort being made by so very many people, worldwide, who are trying to solve the existing world’s energy crisis — such as the following from the section titles p.244 – 260:

  • Ratchet up Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards
  • Develop Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Standards for Large Trucks
  • Increase California’s Zero-emission Vehicle Requirements (everyone)
  • Expand Research and Development of Advanced Vehicle Technologies
  • Impose Low-carbon Fuel Standards
  • Create a Price Floor for Gasoline and Diesel
  • Create Incentives to Develop Low-carbon Fuel Infrastructure
  • Expand Research and Development for Low-carbon Fuels
  • Facilitate Global Development and Transfer of Low-Carbon Technologies and Standards
  • Reward Low-carbon Consumerism
  • Restructure Taxes, Fees, and Other Incentives to Reduce Vehicle Usage
  • Establish Carbon Budgets for Individuals, Households, and Local Governments
  • Create Incentives to Advance New Mobility Options
  • Research, Develop, and Test New Mobility Services
  • Develop and Test Strategies and Policies to Motivate Low-Carbon Behavior

Notice that in this list there is never a mention or even an allusion to the world population explosion as being the root cause of these problems. Apparently it is a forbidden subject and that is why I think the highlighted quote above the list slipped past the editors. The population explosion is a problem without a solution in the modern world in part because no one is willing to talk about it. Obviously any answer suggested would limit someone’s god given right to reproduce which is the most sacred principle of life after self-survival. However, with nothing to keep human population stabilized at some sustainable number it will increase until all available food is consumed and then nature will adjust the population with a famine.

Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability by Daniel Sperling and Deborah Gordon never comes close to discussing the fundamental problem and focuses almost exclusively on vehicles and the liquid energy sources used to power them and various laws which might push the world toward a lower carbon footprint. That is commendable enough but they fully admit that the sources for the energy required for propelling the immense fleet of cars already built and being built will come from stored hydrocarbons – oil, heavy oils and coal. They propose many different ways for making this energy available without so much pollution but freely admit that without CO2 sequestration disaster is inevitable. Unfortunately, no one is doing much about sequestration other than talk. It is expensive locally and the payoff is that everyone else benefits. Which translates, we few good people pay and you many bad people benefit. Thus until there are worldwide enforced laws it is expensive and counterproductive for the distributors of energy to sequester their CO2.

There is essentially no discussion of solar power or wind power and barely a dismissive mention that it even exists. On page 252:

Eventually, renewable sources will dominate, but that future may be far off. Meanwhile, it’s urgent that more sustainable ways of using fossil energy, especially coal, be developed.

All but unmentioned is that the CO2 already in the atmosphere is melting the glaciers and when they are gone there will be far less usable water available for agriculture. The CO2 already in the air, even without any more input from humans, would probably melt most of the glaciers in 100 years, but with twice the number of cars burning even worse fuel, because the easily cleaned fuel is already used up, the pollution will grow even worse even faster. The many proposals will all help but even if all of those proposed in this book were fully implemented it is doubtful if there would be any alleviation of the CO2 induced water shortage which leads to food shortage which leads to famine.

The book concludes with:

Adopting a strategic, long-range view is the key. The road to surviving and thriving is paved with vehicles that sip fuel, low-carbon fuels and electric-drive vehicles, new mobility options, and smarter governance. Enlightened consumers, innovative policymakers, and entrepreneurial businesses worldwide can drive us to a sustainable future.

Everything in that conclusion is little more than hopeful words paved with good intentions. What human society needs is an outside stabilizing force. All other creatures have their predators but humans have none except perhaps by a loose definition – disease. We have another outside predatory force we all live with and obey most of the time and when we don’t obey we are often punished. Human laws. When we have some worldwide laws, especially population laws, (I hope for fair laws fairly applied) which limit a human population to a small but sustainable number which lives within the capacity of the Earth’s ability to support it, then we have reasonable hope for human society. That could and possibly some day will exist — but not today. Today the world’s social structure and laws are set up for each individual to maximize their personal self-interest as best they can, unfortunately at the expense of everyone else. It can’t last forever with seven billion people and it won’t but for the time being that’s the way it is, so enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.