Former-communists-turned-Greens like Mikhail Gorbachev and Germany’s Joschka Fischer have another reason to lament the passing of the Soviet Union: The explosion of auto consumerism in emerging economies like Russia’s are making irrelevant any attempts by Western countries to reduce greenhouse gases.
Barack Obama lectured 72,000 Oregonians this week (and I’m betting many of those folks arrived by SUV) that “we can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.”
Well, Russia is not only saying “OK” but “we want what you’ve got.” [Ditto for China and India.]
The Detroit News reports today that Russian auto sales have increased by 300 percent in the last five years. “By 2010,” reports my colleague Christine Tierney, “many forecasters see Russia overtaking Germany to become Europe’s No. 1 auto market with sales of more than 4 million vehicles (up from 2.3 million today).”
What kind of vehicles? “Russians go for the kind of big vehicles that generate big profits for automakers,” reports Tierney, quoting a Toyota executive who says: “It’s a big country with long straight roads and big-sized people, so it has many of the preferences of the American market.” (See the Land Rover SUV ad in Moscow pictured below.)
“The market has grown at a much faster clip than we thought,” chimes in Frederick Henderson of GM, which – along with other foreign makers like Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Hyundai — is building a massive new manufacturing facility there to keep up with galloping demand.
With the global hunger for oil, Russia is exploiting its own reserves, making its citizens rich and eager for the consumer trappings of its former capitalist enemies. While the U.S. has 800 vehicles per 1,000 residents (some auto analysts actually estimate that there are more cars than people in the U.S.), there are just 190 cars per 1,000 Russians. Well, not for long.
Meanwhile, U.S. politicans like Obama want our country to unilaterally sacrifice its economic growth in the name of Green morality, while leaving our own oil wealth in the ground.