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January 08, 2007


mark c r (chemist), UK

Joel, I enjoyed reading this one - and imagining you walking round the Auto-show with it's various sights and sounds.

Well Joel, you do realise most of these events are almost "theme parks for young men" in their outlook... with A LOT OF TESTOSTERONE...

I'm sure the organisers would have had the word "GREEN, GREEN GREEN" plastered all over the place - if the oil price hadn't temporarily slipped below $60pb recently due to the milder weather (climate change?) in the US of late...

I'm sure the attendees would have put that TOP of their list if purchasing new vehicles also if that were ther case.

So maybe that was a temporary glitch. Either way, when I go purchase an "as new" car - it'll be one with a good mixture of performance/fuel economy/comfort... or ones highlighted as being good - so I have less to worry about in it's "greeness".

I think Toyota, Honda are providing this at the moment... hence why their businesses are ticking over nicely right now.

I believe "Clean Tech and Green Technologies" will do much to invigorate companies... since it means innovation!

For example the (non-automotive) home improvement company "B&Q"'s recent interview... BBC HARDTALK IAN CHESHIRE of B&Q.

Being Green is inherently having a "positive business strategy"... AS YOUR WELL AWARE! So that's why I think it'll be very successful... and why I'm working in it!


Wait you complain about muscle being the main word of the day and not green, but you drive a BMW convertible? No mention of blec-tec diesels? I think it is good that the companies are realizing the high profit SUV and truck market won't be the huge profit maker for long. Hell for all the years the Prius has been out, it just became profitable.

Jim Leemann

Joel, I always find reading your perspective to be quite interesting. If “Green” has gone mainstream, I do believe we would be seeing and hearing a great deal more “Green” advertising and marketing versus, as you suggest, “it has become so common as to be unworthy, or at least less worthy, of news, let alone hype.” I guess I missed all the “Green” advertising that has occurred. This sounds like “wishful” thinking on your part.

The only “Green” of interest to the automotive industry comes in denominations of dollars, pounds, yen, francs, etc. The automobile manufacturers are only concerned with what the consuming public is going to buy when it walks into their showrooms.

The catalyst that is going to propel the automotive industry into presenting a plethora of “Green” vehicles at the Detroit Auto Show is when oil prices hit $100+/barrel, which in turn will drive the cost of fuel well above $4.00/gallon. Once this occurs the “uncanny awareness for the wants and needs of American consumers” will materialize into their screaming demand for vehicles that will satisfy the American consumers’ insatiable transportation appetite – translation – 75 to 100+ miles/gallon vehicles. This is when we will see the flood of “Green” advertising and marketing. Automobile companies will be tripping all over themselves trying to convince you that their cars and trucks are the “greenest.” Today these “Green” cars are nothing more than a novelty to those that can afford paying the upfront premium to be placed on a waiting list to purchase one.

The average price of conventional retail gasoline was 110.4 cents per gallon on January 2, 1995. Twelve years later this price has only risen to 234 cents per gallon, as of January 1, 2007. During this 12-year period, the surge in SUV and truck sales has been astronomical; leading one to conclude the consuming public has financially adjusted and continues to buy these gas guzzlers in record numbers. Bottomline, as much as environmental activist want to solve the alleged global warming/greenhouse gas problems in this country, it will take reaching a price per gallon of gasoline “tipping point” to create the economic incentive for American consumers to begin demanding high fuel efficient vehicles. Until these market-driven forces occur, you will continue to be entertained at the Detroit Auto Show with glitzy looking concept vehicles and, on occasion, a fuel efficient vehicle tucked away on the side of the stage.

In reading about the GM Sequel, I began wondering what the price of a gallon of hydrogen gas is going to be if we ever see a commercially viable and affordable hydrogen car. Hmmm, if I am paying 234 cents per gallon for gasoline to travel 20 miles today, what will I be paying for a gallon of hydrogen gas tomorrow. Unfortunately, according to www.fueleconomy.gov, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) travel the same distance today (i.e., 300 to 400 miles/tank) as conventional gasoline powered vehicles. According to the above URL and others, the cost for FCVs is prohibitively expensive today and into the foreseeable future and the notion that FCVs will lower our dependence on fossil fuels is hogwash. Coupled with all the other issues associated with hydrogen FCVs, one has to wonder what in the world GM is thinking about.

I think the only viable option that can be exploited today is designing fossil fuel engines that significantly raise the ratio of miles we travel to each gallon of gasoline we purchase (i.e., 75 to 100 miles/gallon). However, there will be a “Catch 22” attached to this exploitation. Since we are really paying for miles traveled versus gallons of gasoline when we fill up, as vehicle miles per gallon increase so will the price of everything associated with that increase (e.g., vehicle prices for new engines, vehicle maintenance costs, the prices for reformulated gasoline blends, inspection fees, etc.). Our economy is not fueled on giving away something for nothing. Even so, I wonder if we will ever reach a point where, even if the vehicle miles traveled per gallon are quintupled, the overall tons of emissions will be reduced as our population increases and more vehicle miles are driven. If it is possible, I think we are in a huge game of catch up.

Indeed, I do agree with your point that the American automotive industry better become “bold and disruptive” by abandoning its “continuous improvement” incremental march into the future and adopting a systemic “discontinuous improvement” paradigm to their research and development of new vehicles or we will all be driving vehicles with T’s and H’s on the front grills, which many already find agreeable.

mark c r (chemist), UK

Jim Leemann,

Come to Europe, and look at some of the media adverts on television and billboards (I'm in the UK)- it definitly is MAINSTREAM NOW!

Everything seems to be "green" at the moment.

Admittedly - I'm dubious about the sincerity about some of them...

But it is progress! Most of it is being "fuelled" by Climate Change: some undeniable and noticable changes in the seasons are already here in the UK such as flowers flowering earlier - birds appearing confused and plants growing in areas they haven't previously.

Come check my technical blog if you want some more debate on these topics.
The Green Chemistry Technical Blog

Hope Joel doesn't mind the advertisement...

I often read Joel's opinions - and he is perfectly placed to lecture industry on SUSTAINABILITY - indeed he has in the US for many, many years. I'm glad to see he's making progress - through starting debate in the USA! (Which we're having here in Europe too)

Jim Leemann

Mark, thanks for the invitation to visit your great country. I am aware of the advertising in the EU regarding "Green" issues, but this collective enthusiasm hasn't crossed the great divide, as of yet. I don't think it will either until there is a large economic reason to do so.

As far as climate change is concerned, lately our decisions in the USA seem to be driven more by "political" science than climatology and meteorology. Indeed, many USA climatologists and meteorologists believe climatic change is occurring, but my concern regarding this scientific conversation is that it is being conducted to the total exclusion of any other theories or scientific facts. In fact, to believe climate change may not be occurring leads to name calling and labeling one a "scientific pariah."

The campaign on global warming in the USA is not unlike the national political campaigns we have experienced in recent years. It is politically expedient to be in favor of measures that supposedly will eliminate global warming. Unfortunately, most politicians making these proclamations have never spent one day of their academic life in a science class. Correction: Al Gore took a science course at Harvard, but alas only made a D.

We desperately need debate on this timely issue, but the debate needs to include all sides and not be limited to some politicailly expedient side.

For this, I applaud Joel for having his blog and allowing the scientific conversation to flow.

Thanks for the direction to your blog. I'll include it as a resource for the graduate course I teach this summer entitled "Air Pollution and Health."

mark c r (chemist), UK

Dear Jim Leemann,

Yes many thanks - although I'm not a atmospheric chemist or "climatologist", I listen to as many debates as I can and make some observations from time to time. I'd be happy to add you to my "virtual social network" and provide any advice or experience I can, or merely engage in conversation on it when appropriate, on this "Air Pollution and Health" course or related.

I have a huge interest in "the bigger picture" as I have told my PhD supervisor routinely...

Apologies for the short response - my browser crashed the first time round - and was followed by many verbal expletives!!!

I take on board all your points, with particular reference to Al Gore - my view is that I know from experience that one grade from a course 15 or more years ago really doesn't indicate his potential input or experience on the issue. As VP almost certainly he had access to some of the world's foremost thinkers on these issues - and I must also add the fundamental science and suggestions were both well put and were entirely sensible from an economic standpoint. On this I judge him and not on soundbites.

See Al Gore's slideshow presentation here. *NB the video is 233MB! sorry! The source for this was Calvin Jones' Blog "Climate Change Action" which I read from time to time.

On the debate as a whole in the USA, I refer you to the excellent "The Energy Blog" run by James Fraser, with an example of the debate (I took part in) which as you'll see got often personal.UCS Asserts That ExxonMobil is Clouding Understanding of Climate Change to Delay Action on the Issue>.
My view is that if you watch Al Gore's film - and hear G Bush Sr.'s attack on Gore calling him an "environmental loony" it becomes apparent what a highly unfortunate choice of words that was. This has probably left people being somewhat more aggressive than previously. It is my belief from all the available evidence I have read or heard reported that hindsight shows us that Al Gore was correct and that the beginnings of anthropogenic climate change is indeed with us

Looking at successes, I refer you to the "Montreal Agreement" which from your course you'll know - that when census is there action swiftly follows.

My view on the GHG issue is that there are economic reasons for implementing research into new technology as well as environmental reasons. For one thing - clean tech = economic efficiency in the vast majority of cases. Economic efficiency means wealth preservation... and potential for further innovation. Innovation often means jobs too...

I recently listened to Jonathon Porritt> lecture on the many challenges facing us, including GW. On many points (not all) I agreed with him. One point especially was how it's amazing how the human mind when applied can do extraordinary things.

What you are doing educating people on "Air Pollution and Health" is enabling people to make MORE-INFORMED choices in their lives. I hate to do it on here but quoting Tony Blair and saying "education education education" is the key to our problems is true. The fact we now live in the "knowledge economy" and so innovation creates wealth is also important to remember.

Sustainability and clean technology are therefore goals that match our global economic aspirations.

Hope to hear from you again soon.


mark c r (chemist), UK

I saw this and thought I'd add it to the previous comments:

Big businesses' climate meeting

Major UK companies such as BT, Tesco and BA are to meet to collaborate on tackling climate change.
The taskforce will discuss ways in which they can help the environment.

BBC business editor Robert Peston says some of Britain's biggest companies are now admitting climate changes is real, dangerous and partly their fault.

The new taskforce, set up under the umbrella of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), is expected to look at carbon taxes and offsetting.

Green business 'opportunity'

Our business editor said it will also look at whether money can be made out of potential environmental legislation.

He said it was not just a defensive move to ward off new taxes and regulations, but proof that big business saw going green, increasingly, as an opportunity.


Jim Kliesch

Nice writeup, Joel. I agree with what you said, although it seemed to me that Blue Tec got a fair amount of showroom floorspace at the Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and VW booths (though admittedly no press conference mention).

BTW, the 7,200 lbs. you referenced is the Tundra's gross vehicle weight. The curb weight of the Tundra ranges from 4,610 lbs. to 5,630 lbs., depending on options.

Dave Pratt

Thanks Joel,

Perhaps you witnessed at the auto show what you have seen all your life. Power and illusions of power trump reason. Testosterone trumps intelligence. Male inclinations toward power and dominance trump female inclinations toward collective agreement and mutual nurturance.

The auto industry is cleverly exploiting the traditional male dominance paradigm. Why should they bother to try to change it? And what?! Lose money?! No, they're going to continue to exploit it and promote it.

Only one thing can temporarily trump testosterone in those who have not adopted a more knowledgeable, inclusive, and feminized interaction with the world. FEAR. But only temporarily. We see that happening in the U.K. and parts of Europe. They are learning slowly to fear global warming. But mostly because the consequences of global warming will be quite dire for them. Europe's politicians and corporate reps have become apologetic in response to the growing public fear response in Europe. They fear a potential backlash.

Corporations have been using strategies of green deception (i.e. the false promise of hydrogen), green washing, green incrementalism, internal sabotage of their own green programs (i.e. GM's self destruction of the EV1 electric car), and green wishing (my term) public relations schemes for decades.

The strategy you witnessed at the show is the pumping of male dominance and female cattish compliance images in order to politically reinforce a traditional aggressive contempt for "wimpy" less consumptive green strategies. "Macho" still sells...overwhelmingly.

Toyota is most interesting in this because they have chosen to "cut into" Ford's number one selling F-Series pickup truck line in order to gain dominance of the American market. And ironically, Henry Ford was one of the first manufacturers to discover that social image trumps collective reason and practicality when the consumer puts his money down. The Model T is still the premiere example of intentions toward the ultimate practical car. But the more macho and luxurious Model A was the cruel and painful compromise into social reality and socially pressured sales that Henry Ford had to grudgingly accept. This was personally devastating for him.

Somehow we've got to reinforce the newer social paradigms that value practical physics, intelligent feminine nurturance images, and the intelligent trumping of the testosterone and male dominance cultures. This is happening as a slow trend in the USA but still is far from being a deeply held social impetus. Someday these changes might make for a better Auto Show. But first, we've got a lot of changing to do!

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

"Only one thing can temporarily trump testosterone in those who have not adopted a more knowledgeable, inclusive, and feminized interaction with the world. FEAR. But only temporarily. We see that happening in the U.K. and parts of Europe. They are learning slowly to fear global warming. But mostly because the consequences of global warming will be quite dire for them. Europe's politicians and corporate reps have become apologetic in response to the growing public fear response in Europe. They fear a potential backlash."

I'd suggest that GHGs and Climate Change could be potentially very dire for the USA also!!! I doubt low or high lying areas will escape potential consequences of climate change.

One thing I (living in Europe, the UK) have learnt is that the teaching of "climate change" and the "business ethics of sustainable business - protecting the environment" has almost been ingrained in my education from a young age. To the extent these issues are now known widely at ALL levels of society, by ALL members of society. They therefore know the issues - and my view is they're waiting on technologies to allow them to have their own individual impacts - hence the necessary part of business in this solution!

This is something that is only really starting to happen in the US. But watch what happens... it will "snowball"! And the US will be a much better place for it also, both economically and for implecations for society! There will be potential for improvement within education in the US for instance within all tiers of society.

This may seem an "ideological view" - but I think of it like this. Issues like these inspire people to learn, to innovate - to develop new technologies which in turn can educate... this postive feedback is linked to a well known idea in the US, known as "progress".

"Environmentally-aware and sustainable business ethics and technology development" IS PROGRESS.

Dave Eyraud

As I walked around the NAIAS, I didn't find much GREEN in it either. The fuel economy of even the hybrid cars was only slightly higher than the regulars. A huge disappointment in my eyes. In fact, I'm quite sure the company I was with got very tired of hearing me complain about the gallon-milage ratio of practically each and every vehicle we looked at. On another note, I love the camera-based, in-dash side views. ;)


Vehicles will be pseudo-green until we have a sense of what goes into them and if they are harmful, i.e., how much plastic, how much petrolium based carpet, and how much EMF's electric motors emit. Jim, this is your chance to develop Leadership in Energy Efficient Design of Cars (LEED-C).

Mr. Vent

From an environmental perspective, it makes more sense to improve the fuel economy of the biggest gas-guzzlers instead of already efficient economy cars. For example, if a car gets 35 MPG, then a 25% improvement would yield 44 MPG. These numbers are close to what the Saab hybrid and non-hybrid models get that uses Saab oxygen sensor. If you drive both 15K miles, the hybrid uses 86 less gallons of fuel... Which is really good for a hybrid car...

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