Why the real inconvenient truth is out of our hands: Part two

By Emma Claire Sohn

Last Wednesday I wrote that many environmentalists are missing the meat in their quest to quell global warming. Activist giants like Al Gore who preach the principles of recycling instead of pursuing a more sustainable manufacturing method are ignoring the origin of our deeply rooted global problem. I wrote that in large part the core of preventing climate change has fallen out of the consumers’ hands and responsibility instead lies with the manufacturers who have failed to provide the market with products that offer the most environmentally stable solution feasible.

In his Oscar winning documentary Al Gore focuses on lowering the CO2 emissions released when oil and other fossil fuels are burned. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 67 percent of oil consumed domestically is used for transportation, a large portion of which fills our insatiable gas tanks everyday.

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As consumers realize their contributions to our ‘Inconvenient Truth’, sales of hybrid vehicles are on the rise. But just as recycling isn’t the most eco-effective way of disposing of a product, hybrid cars are not the most energy efficient solution for getting from one place to another. Automobiles would use less energy and release less pollution if they ran completely off of electricity.

Toyota and GM recognized mounting environmental concerns in the 1990s, redeveloping the original electric-powered automobile for today’s society. But in recent years, not only have both GM and Toyota ceased in manufacturing revamped modern marvel, but almost all existing electric automobiles have been destroyed despite adamant protests from their consumer niche.

The 2006 documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car” traces the lifeline of this machine. It questions why manufacturers like GM ignore the environmental impact of their products in a society that infatuated with the color green.

The answer lies in another shade of green, the facet of the hue that makes the world go round. Here’s a better question: What motivation do manufacturers like GM have in choosing selling a product that will end in decreased earnings for the company as a whole? Today hybrids are on the rise and electric cars were in demand during their brief resurgence in the 1990s. But automobiles which use electricity comprise only a small percentage of their manufacturers total earnings.

Not only were the sales of marginal profit to the companies, but by noting the environmental benefits of electric cars, companies like GM and Toyota would in effect be saying that the combustion engine – the technology that the majority of their manufacturing revolves around – is insufficient and contributing to a global energy crisis and deterring the purchase of gas-guzzling vehicles which are cheaper to produce and easier to manufacture.

This is, hypothetically, where the government might step in, mandating a change in efficiency standards for auto manufacturers in an attempt to alleviate global environmental concerns. Rather, they offer tax deductions to SUV drivers while giving little incentive to the environmentally conscious who choose to steer hybrid vehicles down a more sustainable path.

What is the benefit to our American government in refusing to adhere to international actions like the Kyoto Protocol, in furthering our gluttonous reputation worldwide, and stealing the majority of the world’s natural resources for a single nation that accounts only a small percentage of the global population?

Once again our environmental policy (and our oceans) are boiling down to money. Not only would a revolution in American auto standards mean a brief upset in the national economy, but it would also be detrimental to the oil companies that are so dear to some domestic politicians.

Automobiles serve as a convenient case study in the negative impact of major manufacturers on our environment. But in order to diminish the effects of CO2 emissions globally the majority of the way we make and use our everyday products needs to be revised.

This initiative is not only dependent on the companies that produce these needs, but also our government, which sets the bar for domestic sustainability standards. Without the willing aid of these two entities we can not adequately solve our ‘Inconvenient Truth.’