Will the Paris Climate Talks Really Change Anything?
Sway Control – Hot Air in Paris
If you’re an avid follower of the news, you may have followed the 2015 Paris Climate Talks, or COP 21. If you didn’t, I’ll sum it up in a nutshell: It was essentially a bunch of academic and business elites having a two-day party in Paris (bankrolled by a bunch of corporate “partners”) and making pledges to work really hard at improving their environmental friendliness. None of the pledges or agreements made at the conference are binding, meaning if a certain country doesn’t meet their carbon emissions or greenhouse gas emissions goals, there is no penalty and no enforcement of rules.
This is being spun by conservatives as a colossal waste of money to have a bunch of elites party together, sing Kumbaya, and pat themselves on the back. Those of the more progressive persuasion say it was a “meeting of the minds” and a global sharing of ideas and concepts for improving the environment and reducing humans’ impact of it and that the fact it’s non-binding is inconsequential.
So what is the direct impact of the Paris Climate Talks on the automotive industry and specifically trucks? Probably not a lot. The United States used to be Public Enemy Number One when it came to being an environmental menace. We were the biggest carbon emitters, collectively led the least efficient lifestyle, and were the most resistant to renewables and green technology.
For better or worse, we can thank China, and now India, for taking the spotlight off of us and our “dirty” ways. On a per-capita basis, we’re still the one of the grossest carbon emitters. However, since China and India each both have approximately quadruple the population of the United States and the fact that both countries have a large and growing middle class that crave the luxuries and conveniences of modern life like cars, air conditioning, mobile phones, overseas vacations, and meat (still considered a luxury in many parts of the world), the potential for these countries to cause catastrophic climate change is considered much more dire than the U.S.’s relatively slow-growing population and developed economy.
Personally, I’m thankful that a bunch of global elites aren’t enforcing yet more mandates on our industry and economy. EPA and CAFE standards are rigorous enough and continuing to get tougher. However, in my talks with engineers and product planners in the automotive industry, even though they grumble a little under their breath about compliance and regulations, by and large, continuous improvement in fuel economy and emissions reduction seems to be a built-in objective in most new vehicle development programs. Consumers continue to demand better fuel economy in every vehicle sector.
There are some that are reading this that inwardly rage against the prospect of the internal-combustion engine becoming a museum piece as electrification in all its forms becomes more and more pervasive. Me? Not so much. Sure, I will always have a fondness and appreciation for the familiar rumble of a small-block V-8, the reassuring rattle of a Cummins straight-six, and even the nostalgic staccato of a vintage Volkswagen air-cooled flat-four. But I’ve been in enough electric vehicles to appreciate the instant, silent torque they deliver. The biggest issue right now is refueling (or more accurately, recharging) time and range. I actually look forward to the day when we get an all-electric F-150, Ram, or Silverado. That day may come within the next decade. However, they’ll probably be sold alongside internal-combustion models for at least another 20-30 years hence. And at the end of the day, trucks are all about capability and practicality. The day that electrical power and motivation can work harder, better, and cheaper than the internal combustion engine, I expect there will be a large-scale shift in its favor.
Yes, change is scary, but it’s also inevitable. As long as trucks get the job done affordably, reliably, and conveniently, I really don’t care what’s under the hood or in the tank.