Here in New England, autumn holds a special place in our hearts. Be it the changing leaves and cooler temperatures, the knowledge that bitter cold and long nights are just around the corner, or the New England Patriots’ triumphant march toward the playoffs, the fall season brings with it a sense of comfort. Timed perfectly with the season’s capstone in America’s northeast corner, Thanksgiving manages to wrap up this autumnal attitude and outlook, bringing together families for a yearly reflection (and plenty of slumber-inducing turkey).
As I become more of a proponent of electric vehicles, I forget that I was once firmly against them.
It took me a long time to hop on the EV bandwagon, because I wasn’t convinced the problems of limited range, questionable cold-weather reliability and the lack of charging infrastructure could be overcome.
As the years passed I’ve become more convinced that electric cars have a place. They certainly aren’t replacements for the family road-trip vehicle, but they are perfectly suitable vehicles for commuting back and forth to work.
My biggest problem with electric cars, though, remains unaddressed.
The jury is still out on the question of how serious Americans are about converting to smaller, greener cars. Still, there is some evidence that the market share for these vehicles is increasing.
In March, small car sales went up, as people reacted to rising gas prices. Honda was the only one of the majors whose sales dropped (by 5 percent). In April, demand for smaller cars went down: sales of the Cruze fell 5 percent; sales of the Fiesta, 44 percent.
One takeaway is that people are confused about what they want and need in an economy that is anything but reassuring and sends out ambiguous, even contradictory, signals.
But what about the real small stuff and the EV-hybrid bunch? We talked about Chrysler yesterday, and the company sold 336 percent more FIAT 500s (3,849 cars) than it did a year ago. Finally, Chrysler brought in new marketing blood.
There are two articles in particular I want to point you to regarding the State of the Air. Then we’ll get to the car industry.
First is a Washington Post piece on the five biggest stories in energy and environment, and what a terrible year we’ve been through on that score. Second is a New York Times report on melting of the permafrost that underlies about a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere. This is probably the scariest piece I’ve read all year.
If you still don’t believe in global warming after reading these, put your head back in the tar sands and tell us about the wonders of fracking.
As CO2 emissions from fossil fuels took a record jump of 5.9 percent in 2010—“the largest absolute increase since the start of the Industrial Revolution and the greatest percentage increase since 2003”—Republicans united in their animus toward the EPA, and the Obama administration called off its tough new standards on ozone pollution.
Boy, we do love our cars. Some of us love them so much we even convince ourselves to like green cars, those expensive, range-limited toys that make us feel we’re doing our part to reduce greenhouse gases and global warming. The Frankfurt International Motor Show is going crazy with green cars.
I write about ’em every week and praise them, for all their flaws, as a step in the right direction. Yet in fact, as one authority argues, in the grand scheme of world pollution, your individual actions have virtually no impact. The problem is far too vast.
Recycling and refusing plastic bags at the store can make you feel better but, like driving a green car, it won’t make a quantitative difference. The actual present economic, biosystem and health damage done by carbon dioxide pollution is about $400 per person per year in the U.S.
Society pays for this in a kind of reverse socialism, rather like we do with emergency room health care. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is doing all it can to catch up to us in their emissions, though some “third-world” countries act in more enlightened ways than we do.