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The Week in Green Cars
Mike Millikin, 28 Nov 04

Every Sunday, Green Car Congress' Mike Millikin gives us an update on the week's sustainable mobility news. Green Car Congress is by far the best resource around for news and analysis covering the ongoing evolution of personal transportation. Take it away, Mike:

While US officials still splash around in the river (de-nial), other governments and NGOs in countries now bound by the ratified Kyoto protocol are trying to figure out how actually to achieve their targeted reductions in CO2 emissions.

The Canadian Senate this week released a report calling for higher prices for fuel and heat as a means to modifying consumer behavior.

“The moral suasion and the advertising and the public education that’s been done on this haven’t resulted in a great big take-up,” said Senator Tommy Banks. “Nobody’s doing it.”

Banks chaired the committee that produced the report called The One-Tonne Challenge: Let’s Get On With It! It’s a response to a federal program to encourage Canadians to reduce their personal contributions to the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by about one tonne each—roughly one-fifth of their total.

The Senate committee found that the One-Tonne Challenge spent $17 million in advertising and public education with little result, said Banks. The answer is for people to pay higher energy prices that reflect the total costs of producing and using it—including environmental costs.

“People in the energy business have told us when we asked them what makes the difference with people’s energy consumption, and the difference is price,“ said Banks.

Across the Atlantic, the New Economic Foundation (nef) in the UK is sticking with the path of “moral suasion” and is calling for tobacco-style labelling on all new SUVs and their advertising.

“SUVs are dangerous, fabulously polluting and part of a wider transport problem that is, according to the World Health Organisation, set to be the world’s third most common cause of death and disability by 2020, ahead of TB, HIV and war,” says Policy Director of nef, Andrew Simms, “We need labelling to encourage people not to drive these four-wheel behemoths in the same way we encourage people not to smoke. If we can’t, we may need to find a very large ashtray for our planet’s future.”

Tobacco is an interesting—and apt—analog, and not just for the health damage done. Addressing our carbon behavior will require an even more radical change in public opinion and behavior than the anti-smoking movement needed...and that shift took decades.

Financial stimulus (both positive and negative) is a proven technique for accelerating change. My money is on the Canadian approach.

In hybrid vehicle news this week,:

  • Honda is now officially talking about building hybrids in China. (GCC post)

  • Porsche’s exploration of Toyota’s hybrid technology for a hybrid Cayenne resurfaced in the Japanese press (GCC post)

  • Azure Dynamics delivered the first of 30 series hybrid delivery vans to Purolator. (GCC post)

  • VW chairman Dr. Bernd Pischetsriede said that while the company may eventually offer hybrids, it won’t be soon. VW prefers biodiesel as a shorter-term strategy. (GCC post)

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