Friday, February 10, 2012
The Car as Consumption Amplifier
"The major carbon-spewing energy drain in a sprawling American suburb isn't the car in the driveway: it's the driveway. That is, it's everything the car makes both possible and necessary: the oversized house, the three-bay garage, the manicured yard, the unused swimming pool, the miles of connected asphalt, the redundant utilities, the schools, the hospitals, the shopping malls, and all the other accoutrements of inefficient suburban living - none of which would exist on anything like the same scale if residents were less able to move around at will. Cars are consumption amplifiers; driving is the pump that enlarges the sprawl balloon. and countries with rapidly modernizing economies, like China and India, are now following the American mobility example at extraordinary speed, by acquiring new cars and building new roads at a pace seldom matches even in the United States. It will be a while before those countries overtake Americans in impact per capita, but in absolute numbers they have already begun to make us look demure. And, as with us, the main driving-related environmental impacts will always to the indirect ones."