The world is increasingly becoming cautious of the effects that human activities have on the natural environment; the effects of global warming are becoming real in a different part of the world (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2009). Until the 21st century, the automobile industry depended solely on fossils fuels for its operation. When fuels and oils in vehicles are burnt to propel the engines, they produce greenhouse gasses, which are harmful to the environment. In response to environmental conservation campaigns, the automobile industry has embarked on massive products improvement; they have developed highly fuel-efficient cars, gas vehicles, and electric vehicles. National and international legislation has been put in place to control the industry, for example, the German environmental conversation movement in 2007 released a carbon emission control policy on car manufacturers; the policy required that 2012, vehicles produced should not produce more than 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer (Sain, 2007). This paper takes a comparison between bio-diesel, gas, and electric cars; it will discuss whether vehicles should be made more efficient or not, it will approach the issue from an environmental perspective.
Highly fuel-efficient vehicles
These are vehicles whose consumption of fuel is highly efficient; they use technology that ensures that the entire fuel is consumed, when fuels are burnt, they emit carbon monoxide and sulfur gases, highly fuels efficient vehicles ensure that the vehicle converts the gases to friendly gases like carbon dioxide. They burn their fuels fully and do not emit any gases as a result. These vehicles use fossil fuels however; they have technology that ensures that all fuel combustion is full thus emitting minimal greenhouses.
EVs (Electronic vehicles)
These are vehicles wholly or partly driven by electric power; the vehicles are chargeable and can use the charge to move over a distance. Charging may be through using electricity or can be using solar energy; when solar energy is used, the vehicles are fitted with Fuel cells and photocells to tap energy from the sun. The insulations and the technology adopted in the automobile make the car relatively expensive than normal fuel vehicles when buying them. However, in the medium and long term, the vehicles are cheap as their maintenance cost is relatively low.
These vehicles do not use fossils fuels (petroleum-based) but use bio-diesel fuels (diesel made from plants and is environmentally friendly) for their running. Biodiesel does not pollute the environment since its consumption is full and highly effective. Bio-diesel vehicles have diesel-propelled engines but they have the ability to use diesel from plants (bio-diesel).
They are vehicles with an engine that can be propelled using natural gas; the gas has the capability of fuelling and propelling big machinery, motorcycles and cars among other fuel using engines. The vehicles using the gas emit minimal greenhouse gases like NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) emissions; they are also lower in cost. The company under the category of bio-fuels has produced hydrogen vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells vehicles that are seen to have lesser environmental damage.
The need for more fuel-efficient vehicles
According to the environmental audit of 2008, in the United States, 33% of carbon dioxide emission per year comes from the internal combustion of vehicles. Carbon dioxide has an effect on the environment; it leads to global warming that has affected humanity in different ways. Fuel is a natural resource that needs to be protected like any other resource consequently burning of fuel emits greenhouse gasses that affect the ozone layer. When the ozone layer has been affected, the resultant is global warming. It is estimated that in1906 – 2005, the earth’s surface temperatures raised by 0.74 ± 0.18 °C. Hot sports are on the rise and people can no longer predict weather patterns; greenhouse gasses from different sectors of the economy have been blamed for the deterioration of the environment.
Greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide; they are produced when fossil fuels used to propel motor vehicles have been burnt. Generally, when sunlight reaches the earth’s surface, an amount is reflected back to the atmosphere at a higher wavelength than the wavelength it had reached the earth’s surface; when this happens, the earth’s temperatures are regulated. In cases where air is polluted by green house emissions, then these green house gasses interfere with natural system of reflection. When this happens, the cooling effect is not attained and the earth’s surface temperature increases. There are major impacts that global warming has on human life they include:
- Increase of earth’s temperatures: when the temperature of the earth has been increased, then seasons and the way climatic conditions have been predicted in the past will change. Human being to large extent depends on the environment for food and other basic needs. To reduce any chances that there will be continued increase on the earth’s temperature, then there should be some measures put in place in the automobile industry to reduce the sectors contribution to green house emission.
- Melting of ice caps. When the temperature has increased, icecaps on mountain melt, when melted, they lead to increased water volumes on rivers and lakes, and eventually they find their way into the sea. An increased volume of sea and ocean water sucks some lands from the dry ground. When the sea and ocean comes into the dry land, peoples settled along coastline will suffer lake of places to life and call home. This necessitates any efforts that can be implemented to reduce emission in any sector of the economy; the automobile industry can be targets through making of environmentally friendly vehicles.
Numerous policies have been developed to curb global warming; Kyoto protocol that was ratified in Japan, on 11 December 1997 and aimed to be fully implemented by 16 February 2005 is one of the measures. The developers of the protocol were United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and ratified by 37 industrialized countries and European community; when automobiles companies have made environmental friendly vehicles then they will be contributing to the fulfillment of the international conventions. The main aim of the protocol was to ensure that emission of green house gasses was reduced by 5% below their level in 1990 by the end of 2010. The protocol targeted the major greenhouse emitters and developed measures to be implemented. Other protocols that have been implemented to prevent the environment are Stockholm agreement from fifth to 16 June 1972. The convention was United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, at Stockholm, where they discussed the need to protect the environment; in the convention, which was in a time that the effects of globalization were slowly being felt, it was felt that the world has a responsibility of protecting the environment. In the talks, countries and governments were challenged to take the role of protecting their environments and be the guide and pioneers of environmental policies in their countries (Oberthür & Ott, 1999).
When the environment has been conserved, then the world is able to attain millennium goals and developments. The main environmental agenda of millennium goals is sustainable development. Sustainable development is an exploitation pattern that aims at meeting current human needs, without limiting the level at which future generations will meet theirs. Some of the resources that nature has provided to human beings include climate, minerals, fertile soils, water, animals, air, wind and atmosphere among others. When the automobile industry has been looked as well as improvements made, then it will be seen to be compliant with the millennium development goals, it will contribute highly to the economic, environmental and social wellbeing of future generation. Millennium Goals recognized environmental sustainability as one of the major global social and economic responsibility of different states, firms and individuals. It encompasses actions taken to ensure that limited natural resources are utilized in an appropriate and effective manner that current generation will meet its needs effectively without limiting the capability of future generation in meeting theirs. Resources are not equally distributed, however they are enough for the entire world population only if they are well managed and organized. Despite this recognition of the need to protect the environment, forests, land, water, and fisheries are often over-exploited by few individuals who have influence and acts for self-interests. On page 6, Sutton, is of the opinion that there is a great connection between environmental damage, industrialization and urbanization; he observes that human beings have altered the natural environment and resulted to living in unclean, polluted environment, on its hand, the environment have limited the benefits that human beings could have derived from it.
Other than the damages that the automobile industry brings on earth, there is another angle of the same story; this is where we will consider the sources of fossil fuels themselves; fossil fuels comes from deposits made by organic materials million of years ago. The deposits and oil reserves can be exhausted leading to a world economic fuel crisis. It is also with nothing that a little problem in the oil producing countries paralyses the entire world’s fuel dependency activities if automobiles have been made not to rely on fuel, then the dependency rate will reduce. Another advantage that the world is likely to get from the use of bio-diesel, gas and electric automobiles is on the costs that the machinery has, the operating costs of the machinery is much lower than the case it is in fossil fuels. The vehicles made on the other hand are of high quality and have proven to be more durable and reliable than fossil diesel cars (Faust, 2008).
Why the world does not need fuel-efficient cars
Emission from automobiles comes from the internal combustion of the vehicle, for an emission, then the vehicle must have been driven to enhance the burning of the fuels; when the vehicles has been made fuel efficient, or gas vehicles has been implemented, then the cost of running the vehicles will reduce; the effect will be affordability to a large population. When the vehicles are affordable, then there will be an increased demand for the vehicles; which will lead to increased carbon emissions. Other than the increased users, there will also be an increased mileage covering by the vehicles this will lead to further combustion and the result will be minimal but many pollutions. With more users and long distances, then damage of the environment can only be increased (Sain, 2007).
Another reason why the world should not focus will all it efforts in the industry is the ration of pollution that the industry makes, despite the fact that it is one of the leading emitters, efforts to target it alone will only cost the world economies but will not offer lasting solution. Other emitters that the governments seem to be ignoring yet they are to blame in the largest position; they include household emissions, and industrial emissions (Sain, 2007).
The fact on the ground shows the damage that human emissions in their different activities have done on the environment; green house gases emission has continued to pollute the environment that is cutting back to human life and influencing them negatively. Pollution can be prevented if all sectors that are known to be polluting the environment are looked into and measures put in place to curb their products and processes emission. On the other hand, there should be policies to restore the sanity of environment.
Despite the viewpoint of anti-efficient cars campaigners, the truth on the ground is demanding for every possible move to stop any emission of green houses from vehicles. When the industry is managed, it is true that the effect may be minimal but at least it will have positive contribution to sustainable development. Global warming is the increase in earth surface temperature, which results to increased global sea level. The major cause of global warming is human activities especially in this era of industrialization. After recognizing global warming effects, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change developed Kyoto protocol in December 1998. However, the protocol has faced numerous challenges that have hindered the realization of its objectives. Such conventions need to be respected from every corner and support is required from process development and products improvements.
The minimal contribution to non-emission that the industry can bring will assist largely in reducing green gasses emission; the move should be implemented however, policy makers should not stop at that, they should come up with other ways to curb emissions (Easton, 2009).
Although scientific innovation and invention of automobiles has benefited the world in different areas, it has resulted to environmental degradation and damage. The products from the industry have contributed to air pollution by emitting of green house gasses when fuels have been burnt to propel vehicle engines. Sustainable development environmental agendas can only be attained if the world recognizes it is the responsibility of all human kind at individual, corporate, government and international level to ensure that natural resources are well utilised to meet current human need and not limit the enjoyment of future generation needs. Although developing fuel efficient, bio-diesel, gas vehicles and electric vehicles will not offer a total solution to environmental damage, they will assist reduce emission to a certain extent; this will go a long way in assisting world’s efforts to meet millennium development goals of sustainable development.
Cunningham, W., P., & Cunningham, M., A., (2009).Principles of Environmental Science: Inquiry & Application. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Easton,T., A., (2009). Taking Sides Clashing views on Environmental Issues.. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Faust, R.(2008). Global Warming: Greenhouse Gases and the Ozone Layer. New York, the Rosen Publishing Group.
Oberthür, S., & Ott, H.(1999). The Kyoto Protocol: international climate policy for the 21st century. New York: Springer.