Learning From Sweden: Green Cars Don't Reduce Emissions

Despite having the world's most energy efficient, least polluting auto fleet, greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector continue to rise in Sweden.

Professor Firmin DeBrabander, chair of Maryland Institute of Art's Humanistic Studies, doesn't oppose energy efficiency or green technology, but wants to "reform our absurd consumption habits."

"Through generous subsidies, Sweden aggressively pushed its citizens to trade in their cars for energy efficient replacements. Sweden has been so successful in this initiative that it leads the world in per capita sales of ‘green cars.' To everyone's surprise, however, greenhouse gas emissions from Sweden's transportation sector are up.

Or perhaps we should not be so surprised after all. What do you expect when you put people in cars they feel good about driving (or at least less guilty), which are also cheap to buy and run? Naturally, they drive them more. So much more, in fact, that they obliterate energy gains made by increased fuel efficiency.

Who can doubt that they'll likely inspire Americans to make longer commutes to work, live even further out in the exurbs, bringing development, blacktop and increased emissions with them?"

Note: Aricle originally appeared in Baltimore Sun

Thanks to Patricia Matachek

Full Story: The Green Revolution Backfires: Sweden’s Lesson for Real Sustainability



Jevons was right..

or was it Glaeser?

Why not accomplish goals using proven techniques?

I'm surprised that any "green" initiative would have, at its heart, the goal of enabling, subsidizing, or encouraging vehicle use.

Would it be possible to focus on using proven, centuries-old knowledge of how to create walkable urbanism, protect pedestrians through safe streets, encourage walking and bicycling through complete streets, and provide mass transit options that are proven successes?

Perhaps more progress can be made on environmental issues by using the answers that are known, rather than manufacturing and subsidizing expensive vehicles that many will not be able to afford and, as this study shows, don't accomplish environmental goals.

Michael Lewyn's picture

correlation is not causation

This article is a bit sloppy. It reasons as follows:

1. Sales of less-polluting cars "lead the world."
2. Pollution is up.
3. Therefore, drivers of the less-polluting cars are creating more pollution by driving more.

3 follows from 1 and 2 only if all other factors are equal: that is, the rest of the Swedish citizenry is generating the same amount of greenhouse gases as before, and the extra increment of pollution is caused by the drivers of the more-efficient cars. This certainly might be the case, but the article doesn't give us enough information to know that it is in fact the case.

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