Global Warming, Cars & Leadership

A “green Hummer” in paint color only

I’m torn between the evidence for global warming and the scale of our energy problem in the United States. On the one hand, global warming evidence is irrefutable and on the other, there’s been such a woeful lack of leadership for eight years that we’ve been putting our heads down on conservation and innovating around alternative energy sources.

Then in the last week or so, US carmakers have a sudden realization that $4 a gallon gasoline is changing buying habits and sales of their profitable, gas-guzzling behemoths grind to a halt.  US automakers have suddenly awakened to this reality (amusing take on GM CEO Rick Wagoner’s position here) and that the price of gasoline and demand for fuel efficient cars are a permanent change.

Gee…do ya think?

Changing behavior while keeping our economy rolling isn’t (and won’t be) trivial. When you consider there are 175M cars and trucks in the US that need fuel and at least a decade to replace all of them with fuel efficient vehicles — coupled with the enormity of our geography making fuel critical to keeping goods and people moving — makes the scale of our energy problem profound. It’ll do no good to point fingers, lament the economic climate fostered by the Bush Administration giving permission for wasteful, profit-at-all-costs behavior (remember the tax credit for 6,000lb vehicles that accelerated SUV sales?), but rather vote with our pocketbooks, pressure vendors (and the people representing us in our Republic) while taking personal responsibility for making better choices.

As one example of that, I just changed from a gas mower to a rechargeable Neuton mower and it’s given me a taste of the behavior shift we’ll all have to do which isn’t too bad, though having to change from driving a car to riding a motorcycle or a scooter would be a bummer (and why I’m hot for a plugin hybrid). Using the Neuton mower is slightly more work (it’s not self propelled); I have to go over the lawn twice (the mulcher leaves a trail of grass behind me and it’s counterproductive to pick up the yard waste and stuff it in a plastic bag); and I’ve forgotten twice to recharge the extra battery. But it does a beautiful job and I’m really pleased to have it (and not breathe the exhaust fumes or have to crank my iPod in order to hear podcasts above the gas mower noise!).

What to do about cars though?  How much change would most of us accept in an automobile? 10 mile range or a top speed of 40mph like some of the rechargeable golf cart-like electric vehicles?

This video just arrived by email from the Sierra Club with a plea to add your name to this list in order to pressure the automakers to accelerate their shipment of hybrids. I did, but I think they ‘get it’ anyway and they’re seeing automakers like Toyota leap forward with hybrid technologies and are seeing more of us buy them.

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1 Comment

  1. John Dowdell on June 16, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    “… global warming evidence is irrefutable….”

    No, that’s not true, it’s just repeated a lot.

    Try starting at climateaudit.org, surfacestations.org… Memeorandum had a good wake-up this weekend:
    http://www.memeorandum.com/080614/p5#a080614p5



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