I was walking in the neighborhood yesterday and it struck me how bright and clear the sky suddenly was. Of course, that’s because people have been driving much less. (1) We are staying close to home as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
There is a teaching moment here, and that is that we have been dumping easily noticeable amounts of fossil fuel junk into our atmosphere for 100 years or so, and it’s piling up. A lot of that dull brown cast on the horizon we are used to seeing comes out of car tail-pipes, and it’s pretty well dispersed right now here in Lewis Center, Ohio. Just think how much better things will be when we are all driving renewable sourced electric cars, and the planet has had some time to cleanse its lungs.
Teaching moments too often do not stick around very long in our brains, however, especially if the lesson is inconvenient or expensive. And, right now, just as we are clearly seeing the immediate effects of reduced vehicular fuel consumption, our short-sighted and conflicted leaders are backing off efforts to compel car makers to meet 2025 CAFE fuel economy standards that would have made permanent air quality improvements pretty much equal to what our COVID-19 travel restrictions have done. (2)
Though they complain, car makers can meet the 2025 CAFE numbers. Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, and Toyota can pretty much do it today. But, the real answer is not better fossil fuel economy, it’s electrification. Maybe we should just stop all combustion engine car manufacturing in 2025, instead. It’s not a new idea. (3)
We voted today. If you had the chance, we hope you did as well. Voting is the the one thing we can all do to bring rationality back to Washington. If you have not voted, hit the road. You have much to do.
Today’s New York Times reports that GM has reversed course on emissions standards and now favors Donald Trump’s proposal to relax automobile emission standards. (1) I don’t suppose that’s a surprising flip coming from the company that gave us the Corvair and the Vega, and killed the electric car (for a while, anyway).
The Times says that Trump’s plan would roll back the 2025 fuel consumption guideline from 54.5 mpg to 37 mpg resulting in about six billion more tons of CO2 over the life of those vehicles with which to smother our grandkids and help burn California to the ground (probably more important to Mr. Trump). It should be noted that Toyota and Hyundai/Kia already have nice hybrid small cars that can achieve the 2025 fuel economy target. There is no reason why GM can’t do that too.
In our garage, we have a Tesla Model 3 and a five year-old Honda CR-V. The 30-odd mpg Honda is probably our last combustion engine powered car. Even if a 54 mpg replacement SUV came along that we could buy to replace the Honda, the CO2 emissions generated in building any such new car would offset anything we could save by driving it as infrequently as we do. Unless something weird happens with respect to the CR-V, we’ll use it up, wear it out, and do without.
What we (or you) can do with respect to GM, if we must buy a new car, is to buy it from a company that gives a shit about planet Earth. Clearly, GM does not. We now place GM vehicles near the top of our automotive manufacturer shit list, just below the German Diesel makers. Just below, because GM is not lying about their immoral act. At least not yet. The lying will probably come later as they try to justify what they’ve done. Then we can move them up to the pinnacle with Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen.