East beats West for that new car smell

China outpaces the U.S. in auto sales for the first time.

Published February 4, 2009 10:25PM (EST)

January 2009 marks the first month in which more cars and trucks were sold in China than in the U.S. There are at least two ways to interpret these numbers.

1) The U.S. numbers testify to the staggering collapse of the U.S. auto market. The economy is screwed.

2) The Chinese numbers (even though slightly down from a year earlier) testify to the long-range challenge China's economic growth poses to the climate. More cars mean more greenhouse gas emissions. The earth is screwed.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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China Environment Globalization How The World Works U.s. Economy