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ZOOM: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future    by Iain Carson & Vijay Vaitheeswaran order for
by Iain Carson
Order:  USA  Can
Twelve, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

'Oil is the problem. Cars are the solution.' Excuse me? Since when are cars the solution? That was my reaction to Iain Carson's and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran's concise premise for their book, ZOOM: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future. The authors state, 'A world without cars would be a dim, joyless place with much-diminished freedom, mobility, and prosperity ... Car culture permeates American life.' Although I question the dim, joyless place part, it's true that I can't visualize cars ever playing an insignificant role in American (or global) culture.

Following a powerful introduction, ZOOM is divided into three parts. Part I gets us up to speed on the history and influence of the oil and auto industries; Part II delves into the global impact and strategic goals of those industries today in view of global warming; and Part III, allows us to peer into the accomplishments and proposals of environmental advocacy groups and think tanks, and ponder alternative energy economic models.

Carson and Vaitheeswaran label Big Oil and Detroit as The Terrible Twins, who, with their immense size and political power, bully, hamstring, and try to discredit their detractors and proponents of clean fuels and smart cars. However, ZOOM highlights as well the noble efforts of science and technology gurus Amory Lovins (Hypercar) and Stan Ovshinsky (hydrogen loop), business and environmental leaders Terry Tamminen and Vinod Khosla, and gutsy politicians Arnold Schwarznegger, Al Gore, and John McCain. Individuals like these, and grassroots groups of a burgeoning green revolution, are doing an end run around the Twins.

Although the authors of ZOOM are journalists for The Economist, the book is not boring, brain-numbing rhetoric, but is warm and reader friendly, with minimal use of economist-speak. The intended audience for ZOOM is clearly not economists or business people, but you and me.

Sadly, punctuating the book is supercilious disparagement of the principles of corporate social responsibility and triple-bottom-line. I find this disturbing. Its market-driven viewpoint is devoid of the moral and ethical values of social justice and corporate accountability. Therefore, at best, it offers a truncated solution for a complex problem.

Yet, ZOOM succeeds well as a condensed explanation of the symbiotic history of Big Oil and Detroit, the role of marketplace dynamics as it relates to the fuel and auto industries, and the influence innovative leaders can have in coping with global warming. I would recommend reading this book for insight into corporate power mongering, and an enlightening glimpse into earth-friendly auto design and fuel possibilities. The race is on!

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