Big cities taking action to reduce carbon footprint

Cities around the world are feeling the effects of traffic congestion.  Some are taking regulatory measures to try to reduce their carbon footprint, such as London’s use of congestion fees.  Hamburg, Germany is taking this to the extreme.  They are trying to implement a plan called the ‘Green Network,’ which would outright ban cars within its city limits by the year 2034. The city, which does not benefit from modern city planning, has streets that are too narrow and curvy to manage modern cars.  After the cars are ousted, they then want to cover 40 percent of the city in an intertwining network that connects parks and gardens and allows travel by bicycle and foot.

Hamburg also wants to do this so they can have a positive environmental impact: “While the move to ban cars is ostensibly to improve the quality of life for the city’s 1.8 million residents (larger than Philadelphia, but smaller than Houston), who are crammed into an area roughly the size of Lexington, KY, there’s also an environmental goal. Banning cars and encouraging residents to use more sustainable means of transport will help the city offset and absorb some of its CO2 emissions. Hamburg has been ravaged by severe weather, and it’s status as a major North Sea port means it’s equally susceptible to rising sea levels.”

Legislation like the Green Network would cause outrage in the U.S.  However, a move to reduce carbon emissions has popped up lately in a more toned down sense. There is a new trend that sees SUV’s having to pay more for parking in big U.S. cities such as New York and Boston. The difference is, this is not a government regulation, but rather the owners of parking garages that are upping their prices for gas-guzzlers.  Some companies are demanding an extra $40 a day to park an SUV in their garage.  While this may seem like a petty way to nickel and dime consumers, it does provide a good byproduct in the form of reducing carbon emissions around their cities.


New 3-Cylinder Mercedes Engine to Hit Market in Upcoming Years

A new type of engine will be released in a few years by Mercedes in their hybrid models. This begs a question of if it will sell. 3 – cylinder engines will soon be offered in specific models in Europe. Hybrids with front-wheel drive will be fixed with this engine in order to maintain enough space under the hood. However, will they be able to market this change and remain unscathed?

There is still speculation as to whether or not this 3-cylinder will be offered in the United States. America has always been notorious for large engines with high amounts of horsepower. Therefore, would it be a success? Our main engines have generally been the 8, 6, and 4 cylinders. The 8 cylinder being a bit excessive, the 6 a little better economic and the 4 offering an even higher MPG. Within that, however, the “four-bangers” have always been viewed as weak. Would a Mercedes with 3 cylinders really be able to sell in a power-thirsty country such as the United States? Would you trust that small of an engine in your car as you gun the engine in order to merge onto the highway or would the idea be off-putting to the general public?

This engine is in part connected to the “down-speeding” Mercedes is currently going for. In this, they design engines to operate at the lowest speed possible while maintaining practicality. Will this be too far for them, though? I do honestly wonder if this could land in Mercedes’ market or if it will flop.

Green Car Reports writer Antony Ingram writes that this engine is simply not “refined” enough for the Mercedes Benz and that it should rely on larger engines despite the crunch for space. That is, even though he opens the article with “3 cylinder engines are all the rage right now.” It is fairly certain, however, that Mercedes has abandoned the idea of 3 cylinders in anything but their compact, front-wheel drive vehicles.


Malfunction in GM cars causes death

General Motors is recalling thousands of Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac G5s. There is an issue with the key when it is directly in the car. Heavy key chains can cause an issue resulting is serious injuries and deaths. Six people have been killed in only five wrecks that result to the issue at hand. With the weight of the key chains, the car has an extreme jolt that registers to the car as a wreck so the airbags are activated.

Models with this default include the years 2005-2007 of the Chevy Cobalts and the Pontiac G5s is only year 2007. According to this article, dealerships will provide a new part with no charge to fix the problem in the car. As a car driver, I am worried about the amount of ‘extras’ on my keychain. I have limited mine to only a the necessary and one small decorative component. All drivers should be aware of the weight of their keychains. It could cause them their life.

A spokesperson from the company claims that all of the wrecks dealing with this occurring problem are all at high speeds and off road. Those are already high serious accident factors. Also, the lack of wearing a seat belt and alcohol consumption were also factors in the wrecks that are seriously dangerous acts when driving. It sounds to be that dumb teenagers were driving too fast under the influence and would have wrecked from that or the car malfunction with over weighted key chains.

Most of these cars were sold in the United States. Owners should contact dealerships and get their car fixed as soon as possible and before anything serious happens. This malfunction can harm the GM’s reputation if they do not handle the matter quickly and efficiently. Consumers can begin to resent the brand and stop buying the vehicles because of the history of malfunctioning.

I found this article actually looking at a different article about the Chevy Cruze. There is a malfuntion that has not been released yet in the 2013 and 2014 models. However, it is claimed in the article that the stop of sale of this car is not related to the Cobalt and G5s. This is will harm Chevy’s reputation. The second model of car recently that has been recalled is not good for a business. It will be interesting to see how the company handles the media when we are informed of the issue with the Chevy Cruze.

New Way to Buy Cars

Generation Y, or “millennials” is the name that refers to the generation born from 1980 to 2000. This generation’s parents most likely started their hunt for a new vehicle by first visiting an auto dealership. For the millennials, this is not likely the case. According to a study done by eBay motors, the internet plays a major role in purchasing a car. A major role not only for millennials, but people of all ages too. The results from the study came from responses from 1000 adults.

According to the study, 9 out of 10 or 94% of millennials gather information online at some point in the car buying process. One-third of these buyers do their research on a mobile device compared to only 19% from members of another generation. Only 13% of millenials said that going to a dealership was there preferred way of shopping for a vehicle. Though most millennials claimed they were comfortable researching vehicles online, only one out of five people said they were comfortable of completely buying a car online.

Facebook came up in the study as a major factor in car buying. While 24% of millenials said they would trust customer reviews, 59% said they would trust their Facebook friend’s opinions. 43% said that they would use Facebook to find a dealership. Facebook is obviously not the only site that millennials trust, other sites such as Yahoo Autos and provide reviews that shoppers find helpful.

Generation Y has certainly taken advantage of technology in the automotive buying process. Members of older generations have moved from the showrooms and into the wide world web as well. Only 25% of these people prefer only going to showrooms. In my millennial opinion, I think it is necessary to both do research online and visit dealerships. I think it is irrational to by a car without even seeing it in person.While the internet can narrow down your choices, I believe visiting the dealership should be the final process in buying a vehicle.

GM’s Recall Provokes Action

Recent news stories such as GM’s recall of 1.6 million cars with faulty ignition switches, and Toyota’s “$1.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice last week for misleading customers about the company’s response to cases of unintended acceleration” have put auto safety at the forefront of Washington’s mind.  As of March 25th two U.S. senators proposed a bill which would make it easier for lawyers, safety advocates, and citizens to access “early warning reports.”  These early warning reports must be submitted by auto companies to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The purpose of these reports are to inform the NHTSA of any warning signs that could lead to potential crashes or deaths.  In the past companies like GM have submitted early warning reports of their faulty ignition switches, yet no formal investigation was done by the NHTSA.  Due to our current laws, if there is no investigation then the reports die there. No one has accesses to the information.  If all citizens have access to these reports the hope is to have a better informed consumer and allow for transparency amongst the automakers to ensure auto-safety.


One parallel that can be drawn between this situation and our class discussion is the Ralph Nader incident.  Auto-makers knew of the possibility that the compact car would easily spin out and possibly flip, yet they did nothing.  The auto-makers were not required to release this information and it was not until Ralph Nader prodded for the information that the truth came out.  This situation also relates to the concept that disasters provoke action.  A common theme amongst the Ralph Nader, Santa Barbara Oil spill, and GM recall situations is that action was not taken until a disaster occurred.  Will the same type of disaster be needed to deal the destruction of our environment?  If these past crisis are any indication, then I think yes.


Marijuana and biodiesel, a match made in green heaven?

Yes, that’s right. The summer of love is making a comeback this 2014. Marijuana and biodiesel, what more could you ask? According to the one trillion dollar Farm Bill President Obama signed early February, ten states are now able to legally grow hemp. This includes the great state of California. Thus, a new company called Extreme Biodiesel has now taken it upon themselves to use this new bill to put weed into action. Extreme Biodiesel is now in the works of buying 40 acres to grow hemp and then use this source as a viable Biodiesel. The company is calling this initiative XTRM Cannabis Ventures. They released a press statement about their vision stating that their “ mission is to provide a cost-effective, high-quality alternative diesel fuel, create “green” jobs, reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuels and diminish U.S. reliance on foreign oil. While the company resides in the energy arena, it has gotten creative in another industry to make its energy plan work, and in the process, stumbled upon what could be two very lucrative futures – a future in energy and a future in cannabis.”

So tying this all together, weed, in fact, may be able to save this country by reducing the dependence on foreign oil and thus saving us from this energy crisis. Although the productivity of the workers while cultivating this crop is yet to be seen, I am confident that this could be the next step in creating the perfect Bio-fuel. By using hemp as an additive to the fuels already present, this could drive the price of biodiesel even lower to create an incentive for people to buy biodiesel vehicles. If not just to save some money, the tailpipe emissions could be enough to make this fuel the innovation of the century.


Unfortunate Prediction: Keystone Pipeline will Inevitably Pass

I hate this.  I absolutely abhor the reality that I currently am staring in the face.  Money talks and energy is money.  It’s obvious since energy companies are some of the most profitable businesses in the world nowadays, albeit being highly regulated by the EPA. However, highly is a subjective word.  USA’s relationship with Canada has historically been a good one since we gained sovereignty from the British; which is part of the reason we are currently in an environmental predicament.  Canada in the past decade has tapped into it’s vast shale oil resource, though awful for the environment, Americans love to purchase because we’re not ruining our own environment, it’s cheaper, and doesn’t come from a hostile country.

Here’s the billion-dollar question:  How do we get their oil here?  My personal favorite answer to this question is simply, we don’t.  We invest in other green technology and we mine in our backyard where we can regulate and protect the environment to our liking, while still meeting the needs of the American consumer.  Here’s the more realistic answer, via the Keystone Pipeline. Unfortunately, I agree with Russ Girling, TransCanada Petroleum CEO, when he says, “I’m a fundamental believer in the market.”  He’s right.  Right now his oil is cheaper and more easily attainable than finding an alternative fuel source.  Moreover, Canada has been importing a ghastly 2.57 million barrels of crude oil into the U.S. Gulf refineries daily.  The oil arrives by railcar and already existing pipelines.  Girling states, “As production continues to grow in North America, we want to be able to feed that to markets right here on the continent.” If they did in fact revise the bill to state that the oil would stay here on the continent, as opposed to the original plan of going to China, I would regrettably have to swallow my pride and admit that the Keystone Pipeline would be a good economical idea for Americans to become independent of middle-eastern oil.

You may wonder why I have this blatant anger towards pipelines, and your inquiry would be justified.  Foremost, necessity has always bread invention and sadly I believe this will make the general public less worried about finding alternative energy sources.  Second, pipelines aren’t good for the environment.  The EPA in a report found that the pipeline would not increase greenhouse emissions but pipelines notoriously leak, it’s practically unavoidable.  Oil kills vegetation and contaminates ground water and it’s running all the way up the U.S. through the Midwest.  Third, it could be a potential site for terrorist threats.  Although not probable, the possibility still exists.  Finally, and admittedly with the most biased, I don’t believe TransCanada Petroleum when they say that they want the oil to stay on the continent.  As I said, money talks, and if you can get more money shipping to China, then why wouldn’t you?

Regrettably, as I said, money talks, and I believe it’s only a matter of time before TCP gets the bill to pass through Congress and the pipeline is built. I just hope my worries are unjustified.