UC Davis professor Daniel Sperling has a lot to say about the future of our transportation industry, and on Feb. 11, several million people tuned in to listen.
One of the nation‘s most prominent transportation experts, Sperling was the featured guest for the Feb. 11 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In his five and a half minutes on national television, he exchanged laughs with the popular comedian, and discussed the book he co-authored with policy expert Deborah Gordon, entitled Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability.
“We have over a billion vehicles in the world right now, but it‘s heading up at a pretty steep rate,“ Sperling said. He predicts the number of vehicles in the world to double, and reach 2 billion within the next 15 years.
Despite major government funding of corn ethanol as an alternative energy source, Sperling disagreed that this is the best solution, and suggested a more efficient energy route.
“[Corn ethanol] has no air quality benefit, no climate change benefit – it does replace oil which is a good thing, but it‘s also expensive,“ Sperling told Stewart. “I think the future [in alternative energy] is going to be some mix of advanced biofuels – not corn ethanol.“
Or as Jon Stewart put it, “Corn ethanol – f*** that!”
Alongside his views on alternative energy sources, Sperling discussed his hope for the further development of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric cars. He emphasized the important role of consumer behavior and government policy in creating an optimistic future for the world‘s transportation industry.
In an interview with The Aggie this week, Sperling discussed his experience on The Daily Show, and answered a few questions relating his research back to today‘s college students and young people.
What was it like to be on the Daily Show?
It was an awesome experience, a little scary at first – but [Jon Stewart] was very thoughtful and kind. He came back and talked to me beforehand to assure me that he was a normal kind of guy – which of course he‘s not – but that he‘s human, and we were just going to have a conversation. The fact that there were millions of people listening in was beside the point.
I would like students to see how important and interesting this topic is -and it was good having Jon Stewart think that it was interesting. They get inundated with books and speakers and he picks out what he sees as most interesting, so it‘s nice that he recognized this as an important issue.
What does the future of transportation look like?
I think transportation choices are going to be much more interesting and diverse. There‘s going to be more transportation services, and more startup companies to provide service for them. There is a lot of room for entrepreneurs, and using information technology to bring carpooling into the 21st century.
You mention carpooling and car sharing as ways of more efficient transportation. What is car sharing, and where is it available?
With car sharing, a company owns [the car], and it‘s like a club where you pay a small amount of money to use [the car] only when you need it. It‘s like a short-term car rental, but there are a lot of them in clusters around neighborhoods and in cities – whereas normally rental places are more near airports and are longer-term. Zip Car and City Car are a few examples of car sharing that is already working in San Francisco and other areas.
As college students and young people, what can we personally do to ensure a more sustainable future? How can we encourage positive changes in the transportation industry?
Change has to be bottom up to generate the activity and the interest, and to really get things going. Young people should think about it, and know that as individuals they can influence things by what they buy, who they vote for and the activities they get involved with.
On one hand, rethink your everyday transportation behavior, and on the other hand, look at how you vote and what you buy, and know that influences things as well. It‘s about thinking and learning to be more sustainable; how to make choices in a more sustainable way, and learning how to be a leader, or support leaders that are going to create a more sustainable future.
MICHELLE IMMEL can be reached at email@example.com.