“Fuel-Efficiency Rules Are Already Raising Costs in Detroit” – Wall Street Journal, 22 January 2014

Even though GM and Chrysler have paid off their auto-bailout loans, they are still under the thumb of Uncle Sam; elements of Obama’s Climate Action Plan do not only extend towards power plants, but automakers as well. According to the Climate Action Plan, car companies’ products have to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This, however, requires huge design changes that are going to be a big blow to profit margins.

America’s best-selling vehicle, the Ford F150, is getting a complete redesign. from the inside out. It will be the first truck and large-volume vehicle to have an all-aluminum body, which will lower its weight and increase its fuel efficiency. Obama’s Climate Action Plan requires full-size trucks to have a better fuel efficiency, up to 30 mpg from the current 20 mpg.

Switching to aluminum, though better for the environment, is an expensive move. As we reported last month, converting to aluminum means higher material costs and new manufacturing machinery. While the price tag is high, Ford can’t fight the new regulations, and is instead doing all it can to effectively market the innovation behind its newly redesigned products, the F150 and Mustang—the latter redesign offers a never-before-seen turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Each sale of the redesigned F150 contributes an additional $10,000 to Ford’s bottom line.

GM, on the other hand, is creating a whole new midsize truck to meet Obama’s requirements, which they believe will be less costly. Chrysler, instead, is spending more on nine-speed transmissions and diesel engines.

Obama had hoped that the market for electric cars would increase; as a bid in that direction, an element of the Climate Action Plan allows automakers to acquire mpg credits for manufacturing zero-emission vehicles. However, the demand for electric vehicles is still low, proving that that kind of car is still a niche product. Pricing for electric cars start at $40,000 and only increase from there.

While it is always painful to have a winner and loser, the “materials selection war” (steel vs. aluminum) is a long-term societal consideration and climate change mitigation, where aluminum is the ultimate winner. These trends will force America to increase the recycling of post-consumer aluminum products—as opposed to landfill and scrap export—and to also increase the design and manufacturing of recycle-friendly alloys.

There is simply not enough expensive and energy-intensive primary aluminum capacity available to meet higher aluminum demand of 100 million, and growing, cars per year.

See also:
Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?
A Clean Car Boom
GM Planning Strict Diet for New Pickup Trucks

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 12, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

Phinix LLC Publishes Sustainability Gone Postal!, a book based on our 15-part blog series inspired by the USPS “Go Green” Stamp Collection

Phinix LLC is very happy to announce the publication of our new book, Sustainability Gone Postal!, a short book based on our 15-Part blog series inspired by the United States Postal Service’s “Go Green” Stamp Collection.

This 15-Part volume describes practical, real-life tips for achieving a greener lifestyle. Each colorful chapter offers valuable insights from leading experts in ecology, environmentalism, and energy efficiency. Sustainability Gone Postal! addresses the following topics:

  • Local Produce Reuse Bags
  • Walking as Transportation
  • Recycling More Often
  • Using Public Transportation
  • Fixing Water Leaks
  • Bicycling as Transportation
  • Using Efficient Light Bulbs
  • Carpooling and Ride Sharing
  • Working with Compost
  • Planting Trees and Vegetation
  • Controlling Your Thermostat Efficiently
  • Saving Electricity
  • Using “Natural” Power
  • Insulating Your Home
  • Maintaining Proper Tire Pressure

Following the launch of our book, we plan to develop a presentation and lecture materials to broad audiences interested in topics concerning ecology, sustainability, and green living.

To learn more about our book, and order your copy, please visit: http://www.lulu.com/shop/subodh-das-and-austin-mckinney/sustainability-gone-postal-a-blog-series-inspired-by-the-usps-go-green-stamp-collection/paperback/product-20591643.html?showPreview=true

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Austin McKinney.

January 7th, 2013

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

“The Aluminum Can Wars Begin” — Wall Street Journal, 25 September 2012

In 2009, in a joint effort, aluminum companies Alcoa and Novelis decided to centralize their aluminum can collection. In 2011, the two companies accumulated 40 billion cans. However this past August, in order to start its own collection program, Novelis split from Alcoa. Both companies are now at war, trying to out-collect the other.

In Novelis’ new program, the company wishes to collect 60 billion cans by 2015. Through a solo program, the company will have full autonomy and be able to increase its aluminum purchases. Novelis also wants to increase its scrap sources to 80% by 2020, which would be a 35% boost.

Alcoa and Novelis are sizably different companies. While Alcoa produces mass quantities of primary aluminum, Novelis only has one smelter located in South America. Novelis largely depends on other companies for its raw aluminum supply, and will now have to become more adaptable in how it obtains scrap metal.

According to the Aluminum Association, “manufacturing cans from recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy than manufacturing them from raw materials.” Alcoa is looking to increase its collection numbers by implementing new technology: vending machines that give cash or credit for Used Beverage Cans (UBC). Alcoa is also looking into increasing the number of recycling bins in large communities, like apartment building and condominium complexes.

While Novelis and Alcoa duel over collection schemes, scrap yards remain the best and biggest cumulative source of UBCs. Scrap yards gather and sell almost 40% of recycled UBCs.

The question to answer: will Novelis’s and Alcoa’s new collection methods positively affect the US’s recycling rate? Although, time will tell , however, we are betting that it will affect positively.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 25th, 2012

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2012. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

Why We Don’t Recycle More Aluminum and Rare Earth Elements

On Tuesday, I was interviewed by The Clear Clean Energy View radio show. The title of my segment, “Why We Don’t Recycle More Aluminum and Rare Earth Elements”, was mainly about aluminum – but more specifically, it was about society’s role in the use and recycling of natural resources.

A World View

Most of the US’s raw materials based products and processes were designed in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and were created based on the idea that we have an unlimited supply of primary materials. At that time, the world population was 4 billion, and consumption was relatively low. Now, in 2012, the world population is over 6 billion; and with such an increase, you can imagine how consumption has increased and raw material supplies have dwindled.

The US doesn’t have enough resources, so a lot of natural resources and manufactured goods are imported (the US is the largest importer of manufactured goods). Much of the metals we use – such as rare earth metals that are used for energy production sources and electronic devices – are mined in Africa. This practice of mining was glamorized in the movie Blood Diamond; though the movie was a Hollywood depiction of the African industry of mining for blood elements, the concept is not far from the real thing. In this mining industry, imperfect work conditions and human rights issues abound . Raw materials required for making one aluminum can had to travel 8,000 miles, from origination, just to be discarded. While consumption in the 1950’s and 1960’s was limited, our current consumption is growing. There are many ethical and economic, as well as resource-limiting, reasons to increase the US recycling rate.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It is a fact that recycling aluminum is cheaper than creating more materials – recycling is the most energy efficient and resource conserving activity. The US’s current recycling rate is 55%; and while it is improving, there are many other countries who have a higher recycling rate than us: Brazil, China, India, Japan and Norway (just to name a few) have rates well into the 90 percentile.

To use the term loosely, we are lazy consumers. There are three primary reasons for that:

  1. The convenience to recycle is not there. The culture to recycle is also not there – we are used to buying and throwing, which has become our consumer habit.
  1. Products are not being designed with recycling in mind. For commercial and marketing reasons, companies create cans made of multiple alloys.
  1. There is too much product differentiation, which has become a detriment to sustainability. For example, American ice cream shops have a variety of flavor choices, which causes us to use more materials. Many of these flavored ice creams are not eaten – the tubs sit in the ice cream shops and unnecessarily occupy space and use materials. Recyclability and sustainability are highly reduced if there are so many varieties of a product.

The Intersection of Technology and Sustainability

Every cell phone uses a multiple of elements, almost 50-60 different kinds. Many of these elements are not recycled; and these cell phones that are made from rare earth and critical elements are often discarded when a new cell phone model is released.

June Stoyer, the host of The Clear Clean Energy View, made a valid point. She said, “Marketing – that’s how they make money. No one will buy the old stuff if it’s the same.”

The mistake that manufacturers make is that they don’t design products based on recyclability. Manufacturers must think about recyclability, and this has to happen from the design phase and not the post-consumer phase. Manufacturers should design a product based on the assumption that one day it will be recycled. When manufacturers make faster and newer products, older products become unwanted and hinder sustainability. Manufacturers are not being conservative with their resources.

The Driving Force

It falls to society to be aware that our earth’s resources are limited. It is hard to say where the driving force for recycling will develop. Three areas of consideration are:

  1. Government Action:  Eleven states have deposit laws for cans, and these states have a 75% aluminum-recycling rate. The remaining 39 states hover around 45%. Government legislation helps, but is frequently opposed by companies who make beverages.
  1. Consumer awareness: Consumers must ask themselves, “Do I need the latest electronic product? Is it necessary?”
  1. Quality of Life: Too many products may result in a lack of exercise; too much time spent with technology could also result in a loss of family life and social skills.

All three aspects – grassroots, government legislation and scientific studies – must be considered in order to increase recycling rates. We must incorporate awareness into our everyday lifestyles.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Conceived, Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 12, 2012

Copyright 2012. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar