Chapter 34: Industrial ecology and automotive systems
Thomas E. Graedel, Yusuke Kakizawa and Michael Jensen THE AUTOMOTIVE TECHNOLOGY SYSTEM In many ways, the motor car illustrates the depth and breadth of industrial ecology. The materials from which it is made can be studied (for example, Gibson 2000). Its individual components – instrument panels, front ends and so on – can be analyzed in detail (for example, Ryding et al. 1993; Keoleian 1998). And the entire car has been the subject of a variety of industrial ecology analyses (for example, MacLean and Lave 1998; Sullivan et al. 1998). All of these approaches provide information useful for improving environmental performance. Nonetheless, they tend to avoid facing a central, vitally important fact: cars and their use are embedded in and are products of cultural systems. A system is a collection of interacting, interdependent parts linked together by exchanges of energy, matter, and/or information. In the case of the car and its related technological and societal structures, the system is that pictured in Figure 34.1 (Graedel and Allenby 1998). At its lowest level, it comprises the technology-rich mechanical subsystems and the manufacturing processes by which they are made. These subsystems and processes have been a predominant focus of environmental regulation, but, taken as a whole, they are probably not the major contributors to the car’s environmental impact, except in a very local sense. For example, it is certainly reasonable to encourage the use of paints that do not contribute to local air pollution (for example, paints that have low emissions of volatile organic...
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