Written by Jeremy Baines
One of the best ways to save the planet from climate change would be to not put the U.S. auto industry at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world, where consumers and legislators are looking for safer, cleaner and more efficient cars.
Last week, the EPA announced a plan which could roll back auto emissions regulations, shrinking decades of efforts to reduce air pollution and mitigate climate change. If this happens, America’s cars and trucks would emit an additional 321 million to 931 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between now and 2035, according to an analysis by the research firm Rhodium Group.
Not only will this create a major setback for global efforts to address climate change, there is also the huge economic fuel and societal costs.
As wind and solar power, and cheap natural gas prices continue to fall, we’re more empowered than ever to clean up toxic emissions caused by power plants and manufacturing and industrial processes.
However, it’s been more difficult to tackle pollution coming from cars and trucks. This should be increasingly worrisome because transportation now accounts for one-third of America’s carbon-dioxide emissions.
The case for emissions standards
Without emissions standards, the public and planet’s health and wellbeing are at significant risk of toxins exposure. The combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas, produce gases which contribute to harmful global warming and climate change.
And, if the EPA’s proposal passes, it could mean that the extra pollution in 2035 alone would be larger than the total national annual emissions generated by 82 percent of the countries on Earth—or larger than the combined annual CO2 emissions produced by 70 of the smallest countries in the world.
While we, the public, should all strive to burn less fuel—not more fuel—to leave a cleaner environment for our children and future generations, we first need to recognize we are the polluters.
Emissions standards not only affect the diesel industry, but they will increase investments in other cleaner solutions, such as electrification, which is gaining traction across commercial cars. CO2 emissions in this sector are now even on pace to fall below the targets envisioned in the original Clean Power Plan, according to The New York Times.
As we look forward, it will be essential to bring these technologies to other sectors such as light- and medium-duty vehicles in order to meet global climate stabilization goals.
Other investments could also lead us to a "poly-fuel" world—a world where there is not only one fuel solution, but many. The idea would be that each fuel would serve its own niche application, where the energy and logistical requirements determine the best alternative fuel.
Creating a cleaner future
Sadly, to roll back standards would mean to reduce the number of cleaner-burning, more fuel-efficient cars that are produced, including hybrids and electric vehicles.
With Zero Emissions Day (Sept. 21) approaching, now is a good time to reflect and examine our own impact, personally, and from a business operational perspective. Here are three simple ways you could reduce your fleet’s impact:
1. Explore your path to becoming carbon free
Keep up to date on technology which can impact your business. Consider changing your energy needs and evaluating how to switch to green power completely or come up with a step-by-step plan for a rolled-out implementation. A great actionable first step is to consider recycling your current vehicles for new energy-efficient cars.
2. Become involved with industry trade associations and local professional societies
Consider joining or supporting a nonprofit organization either in your local area or on a global scale. Carbon Fund is a solid organization that works to reduce CO2 by helping companies and individuals reduce what they can and offset what they can’t, often through reforestation or renewable energy projects.
Another fantastic organization is BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), which is a nonprofit business network and consultancy dedicated to sustainability. They’re well-known for working with various businesses to develop sustainable strategies and research.
3. Understand your current and/or future impact on the environment by using tools such as Neste’s Carbon Impact Calculator
If you’re unsure how much of an impact your organization has on the environment or are curious to know how much you could be reducing your fleet’s emissions output, you might like to try our Carbon Impact Calculator. The numbers might surprise and inspire you to reduce your carbon footprint.