Good outweighs bad in moving away from internal combustion

Without question, we know emissions are rising. According to at least one source, the concentration of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere is at near-record levels. If nothing else, that knowledge should compel each and every one of us to not just demand a better condition for air all around, but, equally, to move us to action to help bring about that actualization. The reality is that hasn’t happened … yet.

And, since we’re on the subject, what you might want to give some serious thought to is: If there is one sector you would like to see change come to that would enable emissions in the atmosphere to take a nose dive and, at the same time, have the most meaning or relevancy in our day-to-day lives more than any other, what would be that sector? Energy, transportation, industry, manufacturing, what?!

If you’re like me in this regard, then you chose transportation.

Why transportation? Well, there are several reasons not the least of which is transportation emissions are still seeing year-over-year growth if for no other reason than the fact that there are more people inhabiting the planet and more of us are relying on automation more and more to meet our daily mobility needs. The rate at which this is occurring is outpacing the rate at which automated mobility as a whole is cleaning up its prime-mover act – meaning the part that deals with the way propulsion in that sector is generated. What we’re talking about here, specifically, is internal combustion.

Secondly, transportation has been the leading source of GHGs, overtaking energy in 2016. The industry accounts for roughly 30 percent of airborne GHGs from anthropogenic activities worldwide.

On the other hand, what’s responsible for the energy sector improvement primarily is the renewables revolution sweeping through it. Progress akin to that exhibited in energy is what is needed in order to enable the transportation sector to reap similar kinds of clean- or cleaner-air rewards.

Breaking the fossil-fuel-addiction habit

While it’s not going to happen over night, moving away from internal combustion seems a wise path to follow.

Price volatility with regard to gasoline purchase costs is an important consideration. Lately, the U.S. has seen some of the highest prices paid at the pump for gasoline.

Then there’s production. Breaking the fossil fuel addiction will mean potential industry-associated job loss. It is important to note that there are those concerns that have diversified portfolios, their incorporating a clean-energy-production component. Further expansion in this area among the fossil fuel giants as well as with the smaller players may become imminent.

Meanwhile, several carmakers have not only made commitments to work toward full-on electric motorization and by no later than 2035, but there are also those that are retooling or have already retooled vehicle assembly plants that will soon be or are already turning out increased numbers of electric vehicles (EVs). A sign that EVs are becoming more mainstream and are going to play a bigger role in years to come.

Such is creating or will create greater demand for electrical components like batteries, electric motors and in-vehicle computers, all of which will mean that those businesses that will be depended upon for these components, will, presumably, experience an increase in their own ranks of employees.

And, a greater reliance on electric and hybrid-electric vehicles will result in less air pollution.

It is also important to recognize and remember that improvement in this way isn’t just limited to automobility. Improvements on this order can likewise benefit other modes like aviation, trans-oceanic shipping, railroading, trucking, in addition to public transportation and travel operations and systems.

Known problem areas

Already mentioned was the potential for job loss in the fossil fuel industry.

There is also the matter of materials acquisition in terms of the raw materials, those that go into the production of rechargeable batteries, for instance.

Just recently, California’s Salton Sea was identified as a possible source of lithium supply used extensively in rechargeable batteries for EVs, cell phones and more.

Understanding this to be the case, companies engaged in the harvesting of said natural resources must be mindful of potential environmental hazards associated with such harvesting operations. Moreover, the vehicles and devices or equipment powered by lithium ion batteries, in some instances, have erupted into flames.

And, with a jump in such battery use, this will also mean that once battery life is exhausted and no longer able to hold a charge, the batteries themselves will need to be disposed of responsibly, just as used motor oil needs to be.

It behooves innovators, then, to come up with solutions that effectively deal with that side of the sector where hazards or environmental harm is known to result.

That said, if there is greater good done in departing with internal combustion in transportation as there was with the transition from steam- to diesel-powered locomotives, then isn’t upgrading what should be pursued? Just saying.

– Alan Kandel

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