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The automobile must die

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Several large English-language information portals dedicated to high technologies have published an article entitled "THE MODERN AUTOMOBILE MUST DIE", which analyzes the experience of German specialists in combating greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The German environmentalists set a very ambitious goal: by 2020 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the environment by 40%, which is quite a serious statement for a country with a highly developed industrial sector. According to the information agency Bloomberg News, grandiose plans were not destined to come true, even though about $ 580 billion was allocated for the implementation of the program. The reason for this failure is painfully simple and banal: it is cars.

In the article, you can read about how hydrocarbon transport impedes the preservation of the ecological situation on the planet.

The automobile must die

It was assumed that Germany would become the country in which the first working model would be created to solve the problems related to global warming. In 2007, the government announced that by 2020 it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent. It was a bold, aggressive goal in a good sense, which, according to scientists, should become a defining one for all developed countries. If Germany could have achieved this goal, it would be possible for the rest.

To date, Germany has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 27.7 percent, which is an amazing achievement for a country with a highly developed manufacturing sector. However, as Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, the Germans will not be able to achieve the goal for the remainder of the term: just over a year. This is despite the fact that 580 billion US dollars were allocated for the development of low-carbon energy. The reason for the failure consists not in the complexity of implementing "green" technologies, but in something much simpler: in automobiles.

 "At a time when they set their own goals, they were very ambitious," said Patricia Espinosa, a Bloomberg official representative of the United Nations Climate Change. "It happened so that the industry, especially the automotive industry, had not changed the way they expected."

 Changes in how we provide energy to our homes and businesses are of great importance. But, as experience of Germany shows, the only way to combat global warming and reduce emissions is to replace or radically change a car with an internal combustion engine and associated with it lifestyle. The question remains though how to do that.

 In 2010, the NASA study announced that cars are officially the largest independent source of climate pollution in the world. "Cars, buses and trucks release pollutants and greenhouse gases that contribute to warming, while simultaneously allocating a few aerosols that counteract this," the study said. "On the contrary, industry and the energy sector produce a lot of the same gases - with a big contribution to warming - but they also emit sulphates and other aerosols that cause cooling, reflecting light and changing clouds."

In other words, the energy sector produces most of the greenhouse gases in general. But, according to NASA, it also produces so many sulfates and cooling aerosols that the cumulative impact becomes less than that of the automotive industry.

Since then, the developed countries have reduced the emission of cooling aerosols in order to combat regular air pollution.  This probably led to an increase in climate pollution caused by the electricity industry. But, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "collectively, cars and trucks account for almost one-fifth of all emissions in the US," while "in general, the US transport sector, including cars, trucks, airplanes, trains, ships and freight transportation, produces nearly thirty percent of all emissions contributing to global warming in the US ... ".

In fact, transport is currently the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and it has been going on for two years, according to the analysis of the Rhodium Group.

A similar picture has developed in Germany. According to Reuters, in the past year, greenhouse gas emissions in the country declined as a whole, "mainly due to the closure of coal-fired power plants." Meanwhile, emissions in the transport industry have grown by 2.3 percent, "as the number of car owners has increased, and the rapidly developing economy contributed to the appearance of heavier vehicles on the road." The Germany's transport sector remains the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, but if the trend continues, it will soon be the first.

It is obvious that the electric power industry is changing. So why don't automakers follow the example?

 According to the Americans, Germany can look like a paradise for public transport. But the country has also a thriving car culture that began more than a hundred years ago and has only grown since then.  After Japan and the United States, Germany is the third largest automotive manufacturer in the world: home to BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. These brands and the economic prosperity that they brought to the country, form the cultural and political identity of Germany. "There is no other more important industry," said Arndt Ellinghorst, CNN Head of Global Automotive Research in Evercore. 

A similar phenomenon also exists in the United States, where gas veils symbolize almost all aspects of American pride: wealth, the ability to express themselves and personal freedom. Freedom, in particular, "is not a subject of sale, which can be easily removed," Edward Humes wrote in the Atlantic in 2016. "This is a reliable vehicle, always on the spot, always ready to work not according to schedule, but according to the desires of its owner. Buses cannot do that.  Trains can't do that either. Even Uber makes its passengers wait.

It is this cultural love for cars - and the political influence of the automotive industry - that has hindered the public pressure necessary to provoke large-scale changes in many developed countries. But these barriers are said to be non existent. How can the developed countries guide their car policies to address climate change?

To achieve the target of automobile emissions in Germany, "half of the people who now only use their cars, will have to switch to bicycles, public transport or joint trips," said Henry Stressenreiter, a mobility strategy adviser from Berlin to Christian Schwägerl, the correspondent of YaleEnvironment360, last autumn .  This will require a radical policy, for example, prohibiting local authorities from using cars with high emissions in populated areas, such as cities. (In fact, the automobile capital of Germany, Stuttgart, is considering this). This will also require large public investment in public transport infrastructure: "A new transport system that combines bicycles, buses, trains and common cars, where everything is controlled by digital platforms that allow users to move from A to B in the fastest and cheapest way, but without their own car," Schwägerl said.

One could accept more modest investments in infrastructure if governments demanded that automakers make their fleets more economical, thereby burning less fuel. The problem is that most automakers are trying to meet these requirements by developing electric vehicles. If these cars are charged with electricity at a coal-fired power plant, they create "more emissions than a car that burns gasoline," said energy efficiency expert Dens Chesala last year. "For such a switchover, in order to actually reduce the total amount of emissions, the electricity that these cars use,  must be renewable one." The most effective solution would be to combine these policies. Governments will need a drastic increase in fuel efficiency for vehicles on gas, as well as investments in the infrastructure of electric vehicles with renewable energy sources. At the same time, cities will be rebuilding their public transport systems, adding more bicycles, trains, buses and joint cars. Less people will have personal cars.

At some point, the US has made good progress toward some of these changes. In 2012, the administration of President Barack Obama implemented the rules that require automakers to almost double the fuel economy for cars by 2025. But the Trump administration announced the abandonment of these rules earlier this month. They said they intended to "make cars great again."

Modern cars that they want to keep, and how we use them, are far from being the great ones. Of course, there is a climate impact: trillions of expected economic damage from extreme weather and sea level rise, caused partially by our exhaust pipes. But 53,000 Americans also die prematurely from vehicle pollution each year, and accidents are among the leading causes of death in the United States. "If the US roads were a war zone, they would be the most dangerous battlefield that the US military has ever faced," wrote Edward Humes. Every day they become more dangerous.

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