EDSA traffic jam

Nowhere to go but the Earth

The article below was first published in the November 2016 issue of Carmudi Magazine where TessDrive has a monthly column.

A hundred years ago, there were six highly experimental cars. Today, there are close to 400 million cars on the planet: set bumper to bumper on a six-lane highway, they would stretch well over 200,000 miles, more than eight times around the earth.”

-Jonathan Mantle, “Car Wars: Fifty Years of Greed, Treachery, & Skulduggery in the Global Market Place”

Mantle’s book is 20 years old, published a couple of years before I started covering the motoring beat. Of course, those numbers he mentioned are nothing compared to today’s figures: 1.2 billion cars populating the earth (that’s over 24 times around the planet), and about 800 million more “to be born” by 2035, and then another 500 million by 2050, for a grand total of 2.5 billion by the first half of this century.

We’re talking billions here. It’s virtually impossible to count the exact number and correctly estimate the projections. But believe you me, after insects, humans, and online trolls, motorized vehicles take up the next slot in the list of the most pervasive denizens on this planet.

A 2.5-billion vehicle global “car parc” (the total number of vehicles in the country or region) would mean that to keep carbon emissions level with today’s total, average fleet fuel efficiency would have to double.

At the same time, however, climate scientists have urged that it would be necessary to cut average carbon emissions 80 percent if we wish to stabilize the impact of global climate change.

The Green Car Reports also quoted the Green Car Congress that of the 2 billion projected vehicles operating by 2035, just 2.5 percent of those would run on fuels other than petroleum (such as electric, plug-in hybrids, or fuel-cells). Another 8 percent would run as hybrid-electrics or natural-gas powered, while Navigant Research expects 45 percent would use start-stop systems.

I only wish that as a thinking, compassionate species, we humans would harness the power of all these billions of vehicles for the good of all. Not just for fellow humans, but for all creatres we share the earth with. These animals are voiceless and defenseless, but they only wish to co-exist with us. And only we have the power to determine their fate.

We can all start being responsible, environmentally aware, and compassionate motorists by choosing the materials our vehicles are made of, especially in the interiors. That means shunning the leather (which we all know are made from animal skin) and going for cruelty-free interiors (such as Alcantara microfiber leather and Artico man-made leather, all faux leather).

What does leather have to do with the environment, you may ask. A lot, in fact. Leather tanning has been proven to pollute the atmosphere, and if you multiply that by the billions upon billions of square meters of leather that’s about to be tanned. The environmental consequences are global.

Using leather is cruel. Animals are skinned alive and conscious. The leather-making industry also uses hazardous chemicals that poison ground water. There are better alternatives to leather that do not retain heat when exposed under the sun for prolonged periods, do not pose risks to the environment, and do not sacrifice sentient beings. A car executive of a European brand told me that some EU brands are shifting to faux leather because of the public clamor. So, before you buy a new car, make sure no animals were harmed in its making.

Apart from leather, tires also use animal products, believe it or not. Most tires use animal-derived stearic acid. I have read that Michelin uses plant-based stearic acid. Repeated calls to their Philippines offices, however, hasn’t yielded any official confirmation.

But it hasn’t been all slash-and-burn in the automotive industry. Many entities and individuals are in the news for their efforts at minimizing their impact on the environment, which includes cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions, reforestation projects, the development of alternative-fueled vehicles and technology to make cars fuel-efficient—anything to somehow cut back on the staggering 2.4 million pounds of climate-change-causing CO2 released into the atmosphere per second by all the world’s internal combustion engines.

Special mention goes to Toyota Motor Corp, whose $3-million, six-year reforestation project of 2,500 hectares in PeñablancaCagayan Valley (near Tuguegarao City) is, by far, the biggest such project a car company has done in the Philippines. The Philippine Peñablanca Sustainable Reforestation Project, which concluded in 2013, was an attempt to replicate those undertaken in China and Japan.

I was there, upon the invitation of Toyota Motor Philippines, during the inauguration and conclusion of the project. In both instances, I motored all the way from Manila to Tuguegarao and back in a hybrid Prius, which, by the way, also doesn’t use animal-sourced leather.

Three-year-old Philippine-based company Solar Transport and Automotive Resources Corp (the authorized Philippine distributor of Chinese brand Build Your Dreams) recently brought in its own version of the plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle and full-electric SUV to the Philippines. It’s a brave move for a young company to introduce and market zero-emission vehicles in a country where hybrids and full-electrics have yet to capture the imagination of the general motoring public (and I blame largely our government for not being helpful, withholding still the incentives and tax breaks that would bring down the retail price of these vehicles).

Ford, for its part, has come up with an innovative way to mitigate its manufacturing processes’ environment impact. It has recently developed foams and plastics using captured carbon dioxide that could be applied in its seating and under hood applications.

Ford becomes the first automotive company to develop foams and plastics using captured carbon dioxide, and it estimates that these materials could be in practical use within five years.

Formulated with up to 50-percent CO2-based polyols, the foam has shown promise, meeting Ford’s test standards, and could potentially reduce the American-based auto manufacturer’s petroleum use by more than 600 million pounds annually—enough to fill nearly 35,000 American homes.

Plastic manufacturing accounts for nearly 4 percent of the world’s oil use, according to the British Plastic Federation.

Why limit this technology to Ford, I ask. For all our sake, for earth’s sake, let this climate-change mitigating technology be shared.

Let’s face it. We may be on different roads, but our destinations are the same–this tiny speck on the solar system, the third pebble from the Sun that we call Earth.

Unless you’ve volunteered for that one-way trip to Mars, or maybe to that cold, unfeeling planet where the Sun barely shines, Uranus.

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