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The Death Of The Automobile

Friends of the Earth New Zealand has just published a short, dense booklet that no one will want to read but that everyone should.

"Cars at the End of an Era--Transport Issues in the New Zealand Greenhouse" by Dr. John Robinson makes a very convincing case that the days of both the private automobile and the era of travel by aircraft will one day come to an end--or at least be severely curtailed--probably sooner than later. This is for fairly obvious reasons.

Both depend heavily on fossil fuels, which are running out and which are primary drivers of global climate disruption. And, Dr. Robinson argues, substitutes simply won't work at the scale necessary. Electric cars would almost certainly need fossil-fueled electricity, they rely on heavy batteries loaded with toxic materials, and they are practical mainly for short-haul inner-city trips, where public transit is at its most efficient.

Likewise, aircraft burn vast quantities of jet fuel and pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases and noise. In a nice blunt Kiwi sort of way, Dr. Robinson says quite simply, we must rebuild rail transportation systems and the world's passenger-ship fleet and slowly evolve away from cars and planes.

As I said, no one wants to hear this, but there's some pretty compelling logic to what he says in the report. It is quite specific to New Zealand, but much of what's there applies universally.

A few copies are for sale for an old fashioned paper check for $20 U.S. Send to Friends of the Earth (NZ), PO Box 5599, Wellesley Street, Auckland, New Zealand. The report, I'm told, will be put on-line after the hard copies are gone. I'll let you know.

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