Government Mandated Programs – The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) administers the Smog Check program in the State of California. The goal of the Smog Check program is to reduce air pollution produced by motor vehicles. There are more than 7,000 smog check centers in the state; all of which are privately owned. A typical center has one or two bays and one or two employees.

Role of technology: The following recent developments have enabled us to drastically reduce carbon emissions:

has. Advance in battery technology: Historically, electric or hybrid vehicles were not practical due to limitations in battery storage capacity. With recent advances in batteries, electric vehicles have become a viable option. Although it requires a relatively higher initial cost, it has been shown to reduce the total cost of ownership of a vehicle in the long run. Electric vehicles can now be charged to cover longer (and more convenient) distances and at a lower cost per mile than gasoline vehicles.

b. Solar Panel Manufacturing – As a result of the advancement in manufacturing, the total cost of ownership of solar panels (and the power generated from them) is much lower than the status quo of “buying” power from traditional power plants based on fossil fuels.

The above examples show just a few of the ways that technological advancement is making cleaner energy sources not only a viable option, but more cost-effective.

Macroeconomics: I can’t imagine making a case for the environment in 20th century America. The reason is that the US was an industrial-based economy, meaning a number of highly polluting industries supported the growing economy and, at a basic level, provided “food on the table” for most households.

Social Awareness – All of the above trends can only take us so far unless there is a social awareness to enhance and accelerate the trend. Below, we examine the need and desire of society as a whole to make a change to achieve the goal of a cleaner environment:

has. Organic food (the same we had centuries ago) is preferred to conventional food. Adopting organic foods reduces the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers; elements that pollute the environment.

b. Riding a bike to work is considered “cool”; Not too long ago, a gas-guzzling heavy truck was. Is it due to lack of affordability? Or is it due to a fundamental cultural change? Knowing some CEOs of companies who bike to work, I like to think it’s the latter.

Now, just to be clear, I am not implying that we are “out of the woods” and that the environment will be nice and clean in the future. As shown in the image above from Beijing, 2/3 of the world’s population does not share the progression we have outlined. Even in advanced economies, there are factors and factions (remember the BP oil spill and oil company lobbying to drill in Alaska!) that work against the progression. As long as we are optimistic about the future and willing to take the necessary steps, I say, WE CAN achieve a cleaner environment!

Examples of smog control centers:

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