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More Cars, Less Concern

Car sales bombed in July, but no surprise there. It's always a bad month. But in general it looks like the industry is heading for recovery, possibly at the expense of the planet.

June is always a standout month for car sales â€" often as much as a quarter higher than any other month as people grab a deal at the end of the financial year. So a 25 percent drop the next month is to expected. This July is still 9 percent higher than last year and almost 30 percent higher than April last year, when sales hit their lowest level in six years.

What's great news for the car industry might not be such good news for the environment. Tony Abbott and Ian Plimer must have a few followers when it comes to believing the impact that man makes on the environment (they both say it's "crap"). That's probably why SUVs (four wheel drives) continue to grow their share of the total car market, unabated. In early 1994 they accounted for 7 percent of all new vehicles sold. Last month it had risen to 23 percent. People clearly want a big safe vehicle that can fit the kids and the tent and the mother in law. Well, at least two of the three anyway.

To make matters worse, back in 1994 there was a new car sold for every 500 people in the country. Now the figure's down to around 250 people for every car sold --- twice the ratio. That means more cars on the road adding to pollution, or a shorter lifespan of each vehicle which, of course, has its own environmental waste implications.

Trying to find someone to blame, I looked through sales on a state-by-state basis, expecting that Queenslanders would be callously driving gas-guzzlers without a care in the world, whereas the greenies of Bondi and St Kilda would be helping to keep their State's tally down. But there's no blame game to be had --- the trend is nationwide and close to line-ball across the country.

So here's another set of figures to think about. In 2006 our carbon emissions were 18 metric tons per capita --- four times the world average, three times that of France and twice that of the UK and Germany. Thank goodness the US is there to do a worse job than us, but only just. And, of course, they like big cars too.

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