With all that we’ve been able to achieve over the past 20 years in tech alone, it’s truly shocking that we continue to rely on fuel sources that are older than the dinosaurs themselves.
A combination of path dependency, fuel efficiency, and fuel availability has locked us into using fossil fuels for far too long. Moreover, oil lobbying efforts to keep fuels like diesel afloat have stagnated the auto industry by suppressing further expansion of innovative alternatives like electric cars, which still have a ways to go to be truly sustainable but have a much higher ceiling than their fossil fuel counterpart.
From where I’m standing, fuel efficiency and availability are not worth the thousands of yearly premature deaths and dangerously high levels of city pollution caused by diesel.
Just last week, in an effort to address its health and pollution problems, German carmakers, lobbyists and politicians met at a diesel summit in Germany, perking up the hopeful ears of electric car proponents all around Europe. The outcome was far less favorable than expected, however, with German carmakers stubbornly clinging on to a future powered by diesel with a pledge to cut emissions by 25 to 30 percent through software upgrades. The upgrades would target more than 5 million diesel cars across the eclectic continent, but as Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks points out, are not enough to make the vehicles sufficiently clean.
The sustainable transport NGO Transport & Environment commented on the matter in a recent article stating that ‘The diesel summit’ meeting of the German government and car industry shows the futility of spending huge sums of money on trying to make a diesel technology less dirty’.
It’s like soda. Sugars and calories can be reduced to make it less bad, but it remains bad to begin with. Committing further resources to a less bad solution like diesel limits our potential to garner sustainable growth in the market by prolonging its use when it should really be phased out. It’s time to move to greener pastures.
One solution would be to phase out diesel and focus on building an infrastructure based on electric cars and e-bikes, interconnected bike and footpaths, and accessible public transportation. This would be particularly effective in cities, which is where diesel produced pollution accumulates most. As an added measure, if the infrastructure allows for it, city centers could be car free, which will not only allow for our them to be much cleaner, but also home to healthier inhabitants and more efficient and connected sustainable means of travel too.
When it’s all said and done, the outcome of the German diesel summit is very disappointing. It shows that some of the biggest carmakers in the world like Volkswagen and BMW are shortsighted and lacking ambition as they continually embrace diesel as a clean fuel source. But as politico.eu rightly points out, they might not have a choice in the matter moving forward with cities like Paris, Madrid, and Athens now taking matters into their own hands with plans to outlaw diesel fueled cars in the foreseeable future. But until then, we can all do out part by driving less and biking more.
Until next time, The Sustainable Guy out.
Cover Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/