As Congress begins to debate a potential $250 billion bailout of the U.S. auto industry which may or may not include efforts to link the bailout to the production of more fuel efficient cars, it might be worth looking at another type of green economy opportunity – the revival and expansion of a U.S.-based bike manufacturing sector.
The numbers are revealing and discouraging. Although bike manufacturing in the U.S. has never achieved a significant share of the global market (in 1995, the U.S. produced only 8.8% of all bikes manufactured) that limited manufacturing base has all but disappeared, reduced to an infinitesimal 0.3% of all global production. Compare that to China where bike production has been changed dramatically – although not for domestic consumption but for export! In 1995, China accounted for 41% of global bike production – primarily for its huge domestic market. But by 2007, even as the number of bikes produced domestically declined due in part to rapidly growing car use, its share of the global market for bike production increased to 87%. (See Earth Policy Institute) That means those bikes sold at Wal-Mart are likely made in China.
With bike use increasing, the bike retail numbers still strong even in a depressed economy, and some of our most storied U.S. companies like Schwinn relying on made in China, it would be a very modest investment, undoubtedly less than 0.1% of that proposed for a greenhouse gas generating automobile industry, to truly invest in a green transportation sector to help revive a disappeared sector. Anyone for a bike actually made in the U.S.A.?
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