Here’s a worrying thought. The total production of cars and light trucks rose from 74.4 million in 2010 to 76.8 million in 2011, with predictions this year that the number will exceed 80 million.
According to the Worldwatch Institute, the major driver of increased production and sales are the so-called emerging economies, especially China.
In 2011 an estimated 691 million passenger cars were on the world's roads and when you add both vans and trucks, the number rises to 979 million vehicles. That’s 30 million more than just a year earlier. Again, predictions indicate that by the end of this year, the total number of vehicles running around the world’s roads could top 1 billion – that’s one vehicle for every seven people on the planet.
The Chinese market for motor vehicles grew at an annual average rate of 25 per cent during 2000-11, up from fewer than 10 million cars to 73 million cars.
The top four producers of light vehicles are China, the United States, Japan, and Germany, and together they account for more than half of all global output.
And whilst manufacturers continue to make improvements to petrol and diesel engines, alternative fuels are not having the public impact that Governments would like. Hybrid vehicles are growing in number, but they still remain below 2 per cent of total vehicle output.
So is that good news or bad news for the world’s polar bears and melting ice caps?
Until the experts agree, we won’t really know!