(August 2003) A Cleaner Environment - Is the U.S. really making any near-term major changes?
The chart shows analytical data generated by computer modeling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Energy sources are a major contributor to carbon-dioxide, which accounted for 1,547.0 (82%) of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2001. In a report (AFP/Fredric J. Brown), 2002 CO2 emissions increased by 1.3%.
What will congress, industry and the consumer to be willing to do to truly reduce emissions? What actions (not words) are being pursued?
Congress - In a vote by the Senate in late July lawmakers rejected in a 65 to 32 vote, a proposal by Senator Richard Durbin that would require cars and SUVs to average 40 m.p.h. by 2015. According to the EPA, the average fuel economy in 2003 for cars on the road, including sports utility vehicles, averaged 20.8 miles per gallon; this figure is a 6% decline from 1988.
Industry - Recently, researchers analyzed 20 large companies, including major oil and automobile companies, to view their actions to work toward a cleaner environment. The ensuing document, “Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection” commissioned by the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, describes how researchers found that “though all the companies are beginning to measure their greenhouse gas emissions and most have discussed climate change at the board level, barely half (12) have reported on the issue in their securities filings, and less than half (nine) are projecting greenhouse gas emission trends.” (The entire report is available at www.ceres.org)
In late July, Ford Motor reported it would not meet its five-year goal to improve the fuel economy of its SUVs by 25%. In fact, SUV fuel economy went from 21.7 m.p.g. in 2001 to 21.0 in 2002.
The Consumer Vehicle manufacturers will make what the public wants. As reported by USA Today, “Sharing the Gas Guzzling Blame” - an editorial on 07/22/03, in the first half of 2003 consumers purchased 9,000 more full-sized Ford Expeditions with 19 m.p.g. than Escapes with 28 m.p.g. economy.
In a research report on American consumers from Roper ASW, as reported in Fortune Small Business, Vol. 13, Issue 5, “The Next Big Thing” by Cait Murphy, 06/01/03, the “True-blue greens” (09%) will most likely walk their environmental talk. “Greenback greens” (32%) will buy green but not at the expense of comfort or convenience. “Sprouts” (31%) go back and forth on green issues. And, for the rest (28%), they don’t really care. (Ed Note: It is difficult to believe then that the Natural Marketing Institute’s survey of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability marketplace reveals that “nearly one-third of U.S. consumers, or 68 million adults, are concerned about various environmental and social issues and are conscientious of those issues when making purchase decisions.” Perhaps the answer lies in the word, “concerned”; it doesn’t require any action. (See http://www.enn.com/news/2003-06-18/s-5135.asp)
Reporting on data can make a difference in creating a case for an issue. For example, sales of hybrid cars with improved emissions and better gas mileage can be heralded by showing how the ramp up of sales skyrocketed from zero to 36,000 vehicles in just a few years; however, on the other side of the coin, this is only 0.2% of the 17 million of the new cars sold last year. The virtues of investing in clean energy stocks can be advertised as admirable, citing more than US$325 million investments in 57 emerging clean technology companies in the first three months of 2003, according to Cleantech Venture Monitor. However, Joel MacKower, co-founder of CleanEdge Technology, said only 2.3% of total investments are for green energy accounts.
The bottom line, in general, seems to reflect: Politically correct rhetoric for a cleaner environment -Yes! Personal actions for a cleaner environment - NO! +