Final Inspection

Climate Control Good for Earth, Bad for Auto Business

Proposals made at last month’s climate-control conference in Copenhagen, while vague, should not be dismissed as toothless.

The global auto industry continues to watch closely to determine how the assemblage of some 200 countries, tasked with forging a new climate-change treaty and expected to next convene in Hong Kong this year, ultimately will affect business.

While auto makers so far have evaded a cap-and-trade system that emerged from the outgoing Kyoto Protocol, there already is consensus the transportation industry must play a larger role in cutting greenhouse gases.

Stringent fuel-economy and tailpipe-emissions standards coming to the U.S. and Europe will help, but not enough.

But while tightening climate control may be good for the Earth, it will be bad for business. Cutting vehicle emissions from the factory cradle to end-of-life scrappage will add a financial burden not only for the manufacturers but consumers as well.

Expect to see the price of future fuel-efficient cars grow, along with higher taxes at the fuel pump, as new energy policies take shape.

Yes, hybrids and electric vehicles will do their part to reduce CO2 emissions, but does anyone really believe, with the exception of California, that we’re all going to rush to give up our internal-combustion engines for new, more-expensive and unfamiliar technologies?

Do we really want to add the task of plugging in our cars every night, along with our smart phones and iPods? Or suffer from range anxiety as we hunt for a charging station along the highway.

Well, maybe so if the obvious evidence of climate change is to be believed.

Say what you will about reports of global warming data being doctored by some researchers in Britain. Most scientists believe the last 10,000 years have given us the most stable weather patterns in the Earth’s tumultuous history.

Global warming doesn’t just mean Minnesota winters suddenly could become Florida summers or that the East and West coasts will slide into the rising seas.

Do your homework on the long-term effect of too much carbon in the atmosphere. Eventually, it will block out the sun’s rays and that will spell another ice age, which many scientists say already is overdue.

Climate change is inevitable. No amount of gas tax can change that. But given the choice, wouldn’t we prefer it be later rather than sooner?

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What's Final Inspection?

WardsAuto editors share insights and observations on the global auto industry.


David E. Zoia

As Editorial Director, I oversee much of what goes into, enjoying a ringside seat that lets me observe up close just about every facet of the industry worldwide. I have covered the...

James M. Amend

James Amend is an associate editor at, covering day-to-day business and product news at General Motors. He also leads coverage of regulatory and environmental issues, as well as the...
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