14 Sep The Progression Toward A Cleaner Environment (An Optimist’s Perspective)
Government mandated programs – The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) administers the Smog Check program in the State of California. The goal of the Smog Check program is to reduce air pollution produced by motor vehicles. There are over 7,000 smog check centers in the state; all of which are privately owned. A typical center has one or two bays, and one to two employees.
Role of technology – The following recent developments have enabled us to dramatically reduce carbon emissions:
a. Advancement in battery technology: Historically electric or hybrid vehicles were not practical due to limitations on the storage capacity of the batteries. With recent advancements of batteries, the electric vehicles have become a viable option. Although requiring a relatively higher upfront cost, it is proven to reduce total cost of ownership of a vehicle in the long run. Electric vehicles can now be charged to cover longer (and practical) distances, and at a lower cost per mile than gas powered vehicles.
b. Solar panels manufacturing: As a result of advancement in manufacturing, the total cost of ownership of solar panels (and the power generated there from) is much lower than the status quo of “buying” power from traditional fossil fuel based power plants.
The above examples show just some of the ways that technological advancement is making cleaner sources of power not just a viable, but a more cost effective option.
Macroeconomics – I cannot imagine making a case of environment in the 20th century America. The reason, US was an industrial based economy i.e. various heavy polluting industries supported the growing economy, and at a basic level provided “food on the table” for majority of households.
Social awareness – All the above trends can only take us so far unless there is social awareness to enhance and accelerate the trend. Below we examine the want and the desire of society as a whole to make a change in order to achieve the goal of a cleaner environment:
a. Organic food (the same we had centuries ago) is preferred over conventional food. The adoption of organic food reduces the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers; the elements which pollute the environment.
b. Riding a bike to work is considered “cool”; not too long ago a gas-guzzling heavy truck was. Is it due to lack of affordability? Or is it due to a fundamental cultural shift? Knowing a few CEOs of companies who ride a bike to work, I like to think it is the latter.
Now just to be clear, I am not implying that we are “out of the woods” and the environment is going to be nice and clean moving forward. As shown in the above picture of Beijing, 2/3rd of the world population does not share the progression that we have outlined. Even in the advanced economies, there are factors and factions (remember the BP oil spill; and the oil company lobby to drill in Alaska!) that work against the progression. As long as we are optimistic about the future, and are willing to take the necessary steps, I say, we CAN make a cleaner environment happen!
Sample smog check centers: