Sunday, December 31, 2006

Inconvenient Convenience

Jeff over at Sustainablog discovered that some cheeky YouTuber has conveniently posted the entire film of An Inconveniet Truth in nine 10-minute segments. The postings are unofficial (i.e., ripped from the DVD; aka, theft of intellectual property), and they could come down at any time with a complaint from the distributor to YouTube. While I fully encourage everyone who hasn't seen the film to either rent or buy the DVD, I also feel very strongly that the film's message needs to get out to as wide an audience as possible. So here's a taste of the film (a segment near the end that goes into some of the corrective solutions we can enact) that hopefully will spur you to check out the film as a whole (or if you have seen it, share it with others who haven't). (I've also saved all the segments into a YouTube playlist.)

In the above segment, Gore compares the fuel economy standards of the US to other global entities (the EU, Japan, China), and shows very succinctly that the bottom-feeding US is not only a horrible polluter but is digging a hole for itself economically. In regards to the low standards, Gore notes:

"Now there's a reason for it. They say that we can't protect the environment too much without threatening the economy and threatening the auto makers, because auto makers in China might come in and just steal all our markets. Well, here is where China's auto mileage standards are now -- way above ours. We can't even sell our cars in China today, because we don't meet the Chinese environmental standards."


Which brings us to this NYTimes article from Saturday that compares oft-cited steps you can take to lower your energy consumption as well as the attendant emissions of greenhouse gases (check out the Flash chart at the right for the 10 covered in the article). And while replacing all your current crop of conventional conventional incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent is easy and will help in the long run, there are other steps that will make a much larger impact -- especially in terms of transportation:
[P]icking a large sport utility vehicle that goes two miles farther on a gallon of gasoline than the least-efficient S.U.V.’s would have an impact on emissions of global warming gases about five times larger than replacing five 60-watt incandescent bulbs. The dollar savings would be about 10 times larger. And the more-efficient light bulbs would have a negligible effect on oil consumption.


Changing to a light bulb that gives three times as much light per watt of electricity means reducing energy use by cutting “a big share of a small thing,” said Lee Schipper, research director of the World Resources Institute, an environmental group. But picking a better vehicle, or using it less, is “a small share of a big thing.” And that has more potential, he said.

The larger the vehicle, the bigger difference even a small increase in fuel economy makes. For example, buying an S.U.V. with fuel economy rated at 16 miles per gallon instead of 14 — say a Chrysler Pacifica or a Buick Rendezvous, instead of a Chevrolet Tahoe or GMC Yukon — cuts oil consumption and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by three and a half times more than saving 2 miles per gallon in a typical car — going from, say, the 23 miles per gallon consumption of a V-6 Camry to the 25 miles per gallon of a Saturn Ion or a Honda Accord hybrid.

Of course, driving a car far more fuel-efficient than an S.U.V. saves the most of all. But many people will not consider such a vehicle, so they can help by picking a better model in the class they prefer.

Two miles per gallon may mean nothing more than picking a vehicle with the standard engine instead of the souped-up version, or picking the vehicle that has the best fuel economy in its size class.

The message: if you're going to buy a car in 2007, make fuel efficiency a high priority. You'll help yourself as you help the planet.
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At 5:56 PM, Blogger ChinaLawBlog said...

China does not really have any environmental standards, at least none that are really enforced. I am not aware of US automakers being unable to sell into China and, in fact, GM is actually doing really well there.


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