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SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. 1989 Sep; 261(3):136-43.The industrialized nations of the US, Japan, and West Germany can attribute their high standard of living to access to energy. 20% of the world's population uses >70% of its commercial energy. Between 1973 and 1985, the US gross national product increased 40% yet energy consumption did not change due to energy conservation measures. In this time period, energy consumption grew most rapidly in developing countries (22%) while they tried to improve living standards, industrialized, and adjusted to rapid population growth (11%). The increase in energy demand endangers our environment as well as our health. The burning of coal and oil yield acid rain destroying lakes, forests, crops, and buildings in Europe and North America. It unloads >5 billion tons of carbon into the air annually. Nuclear fission generates radioactive wastes. Even though technology has greatly decreased energy driven problems and energy demand without reducing the level of goods and services, energy efficiency and finding alternatives to existing energy sources in both developed and developing countries holds the greatest hope for preserving our planet and maintaining and improving our standard of living. The dependence on Middle East oil strains the economies of both developed and developing countries and sets the stage for international conflict. Potential alternative energy sources include solar energy, fusion, hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, and biomass. Some examples of energy efficiency measures are use of building materials which reduce heat loss, cogeneration (combined production of electricity and heat), aeroderivative turbine for electric power generation, and continuously variable transmissions. Neither energy efficiency or development of energy alternatives can occur fast enough to preserve out planet without political will, however. This political will needs to start with the US--a world leader in energy consumption and global carbon emissions.
In: State of the world 1989. A Worldwatch Institute report on progress toward a sustainable society. New York, New York, W.W. Norton, 1989. 97-112.The costs to society, in terms of air pollution, acid rain, global warming, congestion, health costs, deaths and inequalities, of the world's 400 million motor vehicles, and feasible alternatives are discussed. Growing numbers of cars show no sign of leveling off in the U.S., and they are rising in Western Europe, Japan, Eastern Europe, U.S.S.R., and the third world. 1% of people in developing countries own cars, compared to 40% in industrial countries, or 8% overall worldwide. Petroleum for transport accounts for 63% of petroleum use in the U.S.; in the third world the fraction of export earnings used to pay for transport fuels tripled during the 1970s. Ethanol is not a practical alternative fuel since it requires more energy to produce than it yields, and only cane sugar is a practical source. Methanol production from coal also entails more pollution than gasoline. Hydrogen may be the fuel of the future. Several ways of enhancing fuel efficiency already exist: cars making 120 m/g have been tested. Market factors prevent their development, however. Any car with 1 driver is inefficient. Improving air quality is possible by regulation in some areas, but in the U.S. the shear volume of traffic thwarts any imposed regulation. Alternative transport systems will be necessary to reverse 250,000 traffic deaths and millions of injuries annually worldwide, congestion in cities resulting in lost productivity, hidden financial subsidies and costs of automotive infrastructure and lost health. Multidestinational systems operate successfully in European cities. Nonmotorized transport, mainly bicycles and walking, is the primary mode in Asia and Africa. How these alternatives can be implemented in the noncentralized urban areas of the U.S., with up to 60% of urban land devoted to cars and much of the economy to their distribution and service, is an unsolved problem. Even in developing countries, city planners and donor agencies favor the elite with autos. People need urban design that incorporates access to jobs, homes and services.