Going Green On Accident

“You have about 5 percent of the market that is green and committed to fuel efficiency, but the other 95 percent will give up an extra 5 mpg in fuel economy for a better cup holder.”

In a highly interesting cover story in Miller-McCune, Melinda Burns, pulling from a Stanford University study, shares that passenger travel has not increased in the industrialized world since 2000. 

that seemingly inexorable trends — ever more people, more cars and more driving — came to a halt in the early years of the 21st century, well before the recent escalation in fuel prices.

In many ways this isn’t suprising.  There are, after all, diminishing marginal returns on even longer commutes (the biggest contributor to passenger travel). 

highway gridlock, parking problems, high prices at the gas pump and an aging population that doesn’t commute may be contributing to peak travel. People already spend an average 1.1 hours per day traveling from one place to another, and driving speeds can’t get much faster.

What’s interesting is that government predictions of growth in passenger miles extend higher and higher, affecting emissions predictions.  But a trend will continue until it can’t (anyone remember the 1999 predictions of an ever upward Cisco stock price, whose values would have exceeded the GDP of Germany).  The projections of increasing miles fall into this category.

“You get to a point where everybody who could possibly drive, drives,”

But it get’s even better than that.  In addition to reaching peak miles, cars use less energy now as well.  From a Washington Post article on a counter point

automakers have been improving fuel efficiency for years, selling cars with ever-more-efficient engines. In fact, a car purchased today is able to extract nearly twice as much power from a gallon of gas as its counterpart did 25 years ago.

Clearly the growth in travel in China and India will more than counter our gains.  But the world is not static and innovations in fuel efficiency will continue.  Highlighting the challenge we face

There’s no question that the task of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in transportation is daunting. According to one estimate, vehicle travel in the U.S. would have to fall by half by 2050, or fuel efficiency would have to improve to 130 miles per gallon, or biofuels would have to make up most of the fuels on the market to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Heck, 130 miles per gallon by 2050 doesn’t seem so daunting.  We can already make such a car.

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2 Responses to Going Green On Accident

  1. Pingback: If Left to Its Own Devices | But If Nots

  2. Aaron Gallagher says:

    I see the problem being not that we “can’t” make cars that get 130 mpg or even 200mpg. Heck there are smarter people than both of us in this world who, given enough money and resources, could make cars run on water alone and they’re already trying (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water-fuelled_car). The technology for hydrogen fuelled cars is also close to mass producable (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_vehicle). With a little investment in some infrastructure (fuel cell stations, etc..) and some car companies willing to move the industry forward creating cars with zero emmissons and a much lower carbon footprint overall is not a dream that needs to wait till 2050. The new Chevy Volt with its 40,000 dollar price tag is a step in the right direction but for vast majority of families in this country its still out of reach and we still use massive amounts of fossil fuel to create energy to power these vehicles even though the output from the vehicle is clean. Its not the technology, or lack there of, that’s holding us back. These technologies for clean fuel have been around for decades in one form or another. It’s actually getting this technology refined and mass produced and into the hands of the consumer that is going to be the challenge for the US and every other industrialized and developing country in the world. The fact remains that the oil companies still have a huge influence on Washington DC and their agenda is contrary to what we REALLY need to do in this country and thats stop using oil and gas and all other fossil fuels and start using and perfecting other clean energy sources. Until the govt. gets fully on board with this idea I can’t see things changing quickly and that 2050 timeline might be ambitious. Unless of course all the “experts” are correct and we run out of fossil fuels by 2030. Then we have a real problem.

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