Since the first Earth Day 41 years ago, the automobile industry has successfully harnessed technology to meet global environmental challenges. Time after time, manufacturers have cleared a steadily rising bar, building vehicles that produce just a fraction of the emissions of the new cars that appeared on lots in 1970.
The role of vehicle emissions on pollution can’t be ignored. Yet the automobile manufacturers and dealers have invested significant time and money into making and marketing new clean energy breakthroughs, including hybrid, electric, flex fuel, and clean diesel technologies, as well as combinations of these new clean technologies. The development and growing popularity of these technologies has positioned our industry as a big part of the solution.
However, the new, clean vehicles don’t address the problem by themselves. We also need to find a way to retire the old, high-emitting vehicles that create a disproportionate amount of harmful vehicle particulate emissions.
Our society is highly reliant on cars. They play an important role in our daily lives – getting us to work, school and home. Because much of our country is built around the accessibility and ease of driving, it is vital that we limit cars’ impact on the environment.
Modern vehicles are significantly lower in emissions and environmental impact. In fact, new cars today are as much as 99 percent cleaner that the cars we drove four decades ago. And these cleaner cars of today are gaining popularity with environmentally savvy consumers.
In Colorado, a state that values its spectacular environment but also faces air quality challenges, automobile dealers are pursuing strategies for reducing pollution from high-emitting vehicles. The Colorado Automobile Dealers Association took matters into its own hands by launching the Clear the Air Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at clearing Colorado’s air of the impacts of high-emitting vehicles.
The Clear the Air Foundation (www.cleartheairfoundation.org) is a leading example of how our industry can begin to tackle the other half of the problem and continue to effectively position itself as part of the solution.
The Foundation, which recently received its 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS, has begun accepting donations of older vehicles. The vehicles are then completely dismantled and recycled through a partnership with the Colorado Automotive Recyclers – a process that ensures that the donated vehicles never pollute again.
Unfortunately, other vehicle donation programs often just put these high-emitting vehicles back on the road locally or across the border in Central America.
The Foundation plans to take 1,000 high emitters off Colorado’s roads this year from dealer trade-ins and vehicle donations directly from consumers. The auto recyclers pay for the cars and the foundation will use that revenue to support efforts to help Coloradans with respiratory conditions and providing scholarships to students in automotive and technology fields.
It’s another example of how the automotive industry can lead the way in clearing the air while highlighting the benefits of new vehicle technology. We recently promoted the Clear the Air Foundation to thousands of visitors at the annual Denver Auto Show with a display that includes a crushed car and items manufactured from recycled auto materials.
A rusty VW bus painted with psychedelic designs may hold a special place in our memories, but it’s not good for our environment. This Earth Day, let’s redouble our commitment to promoting the new vehicle technology that keeps our air cleaner.