Local Environment to Influence Transportation

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kurrentcarSustainability advocates long ago adopted the mantra “buy local” to limit the carbon footprint of the goods purchased. Distributed energy that’s closer to the end user through smaller solar and wind power, is having an impact on the energy sector. The next industry to become more geography-centric in purchasing will be transportation.

The automotive and petroleum industries in the United States are also relatively centralized as well. While the largest companies have U.S. central offices, the supply strings are often pulled from far away places. But as electric vehicles and biofuels ramp up, their influence with local consumers and partners will become more significant.

For example, urban areas will receive the new plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles first and in disproportionate numbers. The distribution of the limited supply of vehicles during the first few years will follow behind the regional buildup of charging infrastructure as the auto manufacturers won’t risk selling to customers who don’t have ready access to charging. If you live in Carbon County, Montana you’ll have a much harder time finding an EV dealership or vehicle than those who live in the Bay Area.

Extreme weather (below -5 and above 40 centigrade) can significantly hinder lithium ion battery performance and life cycle respectively, so consumers in Fairbanks and Phoenix might need a sheltered garage to store their vehicles. It wouldn’t be surprising if auto manufacturers are initially very cautious in selling EVs into extremely hot and cold climates. Having to worry about where the vehicles will be used is a new concern for auto manufacturers, so expect some bumps along the way.

The biofuel industry saw an explosion (and then implosion) in small to medium-sized ethanol and biodiesel refineries. Today the economics work against transporting biofuels great distances. The biofuel industry will recover and switch to more non-food based feedstocks, but with a greater sensitivity towards what is available locally. Refineries will be optimized for the local resources, which will ultimately impact consumer choices and could influence vehicle purchasing decisions. If you live where switchgrass runs wild and ethanol is cheaper than gasoline, you’re likely to give flex fuel vehicles a longer look. Ditto for diesel vehicles in places with nearby biodiesel plants.

Buying local also has the added benefits of minimizing the carbon footprint due to reducing the fossil fuels used in transporting goods, and it also supports local economies. As more consumers make sustainable choices, expect this to matter more to consumer’s transportation choices.

Appearing courtesy of the Matter Network.

[photo credit: Flickr]

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