OPINION: Stripping semantics, politics from emissions conversation benefits all

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"UITP - moving conference session in zero emission buses" by Busworld is marked with CC PDM 1.0

If I said I want my next car to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the impact on climate change, what type of vehicle would you envision?

What if I said I want my next car to get better gas mileage? What type of vehicle comes to mind?

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Let’s take it one step further: What do you think my political views might be based on either of those two statements?

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, environmental issues became political issues drawn along party lines. For some, the terms green, sustainable and climate change became so controversial, they stopped using them for fear of upsetting certain demographics.

The reality is, vehicles with better gas mileage reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the impact on climate change. They also reduce our nation’s dependence on imported oil, support American jobs, strengthen our nation’s energy security, improve air quality and foster economic development.

I can think of few things less political than nature. The air doesn’t know or care who you voted for and it doesn’t stay contained to political jurisdictions or districts. Tailpipe emissions coming from a vehicle in Lake County don’t stop and turn around when they hit the Porter County line or the Illinois border. We all breathe the same air and want it to be as healthy as possible for ourselves and our families.

We are also a transient society. We do not spend all of our lives in a small radius just a few blocks around our homes. We commute to work, although we’re doing so less with remote working increasing during the pandemic. We travel for business and pleasure. Goods move by air, sea, highway and rail. We are truly a nation constantly on the move.

The emissions caused by transportation account for 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., making them the single largest source of climate change-causing pollution. Cars, trucks, commercial aircraft, railcars, marine vessels and off-road equipment all contribute to transportation-related emissions.

Making better choices that help reduce the impact of transportation on air quality just makes sense and truly benefits everyone.

Every family – like every level of government, every private business and every nonprofit – has a budget and wants to be able to save money wherever possible. Even those who aren’t interested in actively reducing tailpipe emissions with their transportation choices want to spend less on fuel and on their vehicles.

A Consumer Reports poll released late last month confirmed just that. Of the prospective buyers surveyed, 42% said fuel economy in their current vehicles had the greatest room for improvement while 89% said automakers should continue to make fuel economy improvements in future models.

The survey also showed 73% of Americans want the government to continue strengthening fuel economy standards.

The same day Consumer Reports released its study, Trucks, Parts, Service Online Editor Bill Grabarek published a piece saying sales reps need to become consultants for alternative fuel and electric vehicle sales. We couldn’t agree more.

It is also important for both the sellers and the buyers to understand not every fuel or power type is best suited for every use. We need, too, to diversify the types of vehicles in our fleets and on our roads to support the fueling and charging infrastructure and to ensure dealers and consumers alike have the information they need to make the best choices.

Our Green Fleet program, in partnership with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), helps provide customized fleet analyses and recommendations for emissions improvements, including the best alternative fuel/electric vehicle types suited for a specific fleet’s needs. For some, it may be as simple as implementing idle reduction policies for drivers, which helps save fuel, save money and reduce emissions.

Let’s not get hung up on the semantics. Whether we’re going green, curbing climate change, creating a decarbonization plan or seeking improved gas mileage, we’re helping provide a better future for ourselves and generations to come.

Remember, it’s never too late to begin your environmental legacy.

This column originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Carl Lisek is executive director of South Shore Clean Cities and vice president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

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