I’m confused, not to mention being more than a bit frustrated. Why is it that as soon as the world’s automotive industry does as every card-holding greenie in the world wants, and begins to commit to strategies to reduce the carbon emissions associated with the 40 million new vehicles it produces every year, those same so-called climate champions simply find something else to whinge about?
I’ve just been reading a pathetic article about the Chevrolet Volt – the car that will become General Motors’ first ‘plug-in hybrid’. This dross suggested that the car simply didn’t matter; that its contribution to climate change would be minuscule while coal fuel power stations still existed. Rubbish.
Earlier this morning, I read that GM chief Rick Wagoner recently had to defend his strategy to make the use of biofuel more widespread throughout the company’s models. People have been blaming the car industry’s adoption of ethanol for the global hike in food prices. So the car is not only responsible for choking our grandchildren; it’s now starving displaced millions in the third world. It’s a wonder we don’t all sell up and become hermits.
What is it about the mindset of these car-haters that prevents them from playing an active, reasonable and constructive part of the process of making the car acceptable in the 21st century?
Here are a few more grounded realities, as far as I understand them. When it becomes available in Britain sometime around 2011, the Chevrolet Volt will be able to do 40 miles without burning a single drop of petrol. If I get one, that means I’ll be able to drive it to work and back without producing any emissions of any kind, provided I charge it every night. I will need to fuel it only for longer-run weekend trips. In a typical month, I reckon that’ll save me three out of five trips to the pump. How can anyone argue that won’t reduce carbon emissions?
Charging your car from the mains rather than filling it from the pump puts greater overnight load on the country’s idling power stations, granted, but coal-fired power stations can be adapted for a lower carbon footprint. Better still, electricity can be generated without the production of any CO2 at all. And if your power comes from a renewable source, then it’s not just your car that’s emissions-free; it’s your microwave, your TV, and your iPod too.
The same argument stands up in the debate about biofuel, as far as I’m concerned. If the ethanol’s made the ‘cellulosic’ way, using biomass that would otherwise rot away or go to waste, then it’s not forcing up food prices as it’s not being produced at the expense of anything else. If we use switchgrass, a perennial of many of the world’s prairies and savannahs, we can make twice as much ethanol per kilo as we would from corn anyway.
No: both plug-in hybrid technology and biofuel combustion stand to markedly reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted by cars – there’s just no arguing with it. Both are important. Both matter. And we should get behind any car-maker who adopts either of them. Rant over.