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an auto-industrial society « Previous | |Next »
February 23, 2009

An interesting article on the auto-industry by Emma Rothschild in the New York Review of Books Is the bailout an indication of the decline of this industry in the context of the shift to a low-carbon economy? Rothschild says, in relation to the US, that

the auto-industrial society, with its distinctive organization of American space, cities, highways, social entitlement, and energy use, has continued to flourish. Some 90 percent of Americans drove to work in 2007, 76 percent of them alone. Less than 5 percent went to work by public transportation. The people who used public transportation were much more likely than other Americans to be black or poor; they were more likely to be women than men; most of them lived in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. The states in which population has increased most rapidly—Utah, Arizona, Texas, Nevada —have low population densities, and low rates of public transportation use.

WA, Queensland and Northern Territory come to mind in Australia. Rothschild adds that
an enduring bailout, or a new deal for Detroit, would be different. It would be an investment in ending the auto-industrial society of the late twentieth century. This would involve innovation in public transportation, and in the infrastructure that would enable people to work at home or close to home. It would engage the information industries in making public transport more convenient, more enticing, and more secure.

What we have in Australia are subsidies for a green car ie.,to Toyota to assemble hybrid Camry's) and little attempt to address the viability of the local industry, let alone the dysfunctionality of the mode of life of the auto-industrial society.

What we don't have is a deal in which the bailout of the automobile industry was one component of a program of investment in the transformation of the auto-industrial society would connect economic, environmental, and energy policies. It would involve innovation in public transportation, and in the infrastructure that would enable people to work at home or close to home.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:17 AM | | Comments (3)


So the Rudd Government has a massive public investment($6.2 billion) in a declining industry that has been reduced to corporate begging? The fiction in Australia is that everything will be hunky dory, even though the car industry was in deep trouble before the financial crisis. In trouble because its production and product was geared to another era.

I was surprised to see all the construction work being undertaken on our highways and railways. The work is being undertaken by foreign owned multinationals, the road builders use really expensive earth moving equipment. The duplication of the Albury Wodonga rail line is taking 12 months - can't believe its that slow, after all it was first laid in the 1890s - hasn't technology improved?
In the face of increasing petrol prices as fuel becomes scarce you would expect more effort to be spent on public transport.
If you want to live in a part of Australia well serviced by public transport you are restricted to those parts of Australia that were settled before 1900.

This is an illustration of why I keep saying climate change is beyond the capacity of human institutions to respond to in anything like a timely, effective fashion. The aggregate effect of routine, business-as-usual, short-term choices will inevitably overwhelm any limited new macro policy measures.