Sunday, July 02, 2006

A baby United States

From today's NYT magazine:
  • Total miles of Chinese highway have doubled in the last 5 years: at least 23,000, second now only to the United States's 46,000 miles.
  • 53,000 highway miles by 2035, according to Government plans.
  • Number of passenger cars on the road have more than tripled in 6 years: about 20 million today, from about 6 million in 2000.
Clearly, China is only at the very beginning of a car craze -- about where the U.S. was in the late 1940's. And the Chinese government will encourage highways and cars, despite their impact on the environment, gas imports, and government control, because a Chinese highway system will tie the country together. That's priority #1.

So here we are, at just the very beginning of a massive explosion in consumption, and Chinese pollution is already so enormous that it's affecting air quality in California!

We will eventually develop technology fixes for fossil fuels, CO2, and air pollution. But will it happen soon enough?

Was Communism, ultimately, a gift to the American lifestyle? By keeping more than 1 billion people in poverty for the last half Century, did it allow us our profligate ways?
An ebullient atmosphere surrounds the automobile in China. You can see the excitement continuing, even growing, as more people buy cars: China now has fewer than seven of them for every thousand people, roughly the same level as the United States had in 1915. Everyone expects the ownership rate to keep growing, which means there could be 130 million vehicles on China's roads by 2020. By 2030, according to one estimate, there could be as many as in the United States.