Ford recently announced that it is joining the First Movers Coalition, an initiative that aims to get large companies to adopt clean technologies early so they can get off the ground faster.
“Ford has a strong track record of firsts in automotive sustainability, from being the only full-line American automaker to stand with California in support of stronger vehicle emissions standards to being the first automaker to join the Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge and commit to reducing our manufacturing emissions earlier this year. And now as part of the First Movers Coalition, we’re targeting the environmental impact of our supply chain by investing in green steel and aluminum,” said Ford Chief Government Affairs Officer Chris Smith. “Together this coalition has the potential to build the future of zero-emissions transportation that is good for people and the planet, and good for business.”
One of the big problems with producing and working with metal is that it requires a lot of heat. Getting heat from clean electricity is technically possible, but it would require a LOT of electricity to melt enough steel and aluminum to make a bunch of cars and trucks (a business Ford seems to be pretty deep into). But today, most metal gets processed by using coal, so continuing to do that (and produce a significant fraction of global emissions) is also unacceptable.
So, to move forward, the First Movers Coalition intends to work with companies to provide alternative routes to producing metal parts. In this case, one possible alternative is to use hydrogen to heat and work metal. This is problematic in its own ways, because producing hydrogen using clean energy is still energy intensive, but it’s potentially more workable because hydrogen can be stored more easily than electricity. Sadly, it also gives companies an opportunity to slip less clean forms of hydrogen (such as those derived from fossil fuels) into the process.
Another alternative Ford mentions is using more recycling whenever possible. The company mentions that it already produces a lot of recycled aluminum at one of its plants, and that recycled aluminum requires only 5% of the energy to produce compared to mining and refining new metal. So, that’s definitely a good possibility.
Metals aren’t the only industry the First Movers Coalition targets. First Movers Coalition also looks at aviation, chemicals, concrete, shipping, and trucking, which (combined with aluminum and steel) are responsible for 30% of global emissions. Worse, this proportion could rise to 50% if left unchecked in coming decades. By focusing on that and putting some serious muscle (from companies like Ford) behind efforts to change, big impacts are definitely possible.
For some of these areas, new technologies will have to emerge and existing ones will have to be scaled up significantly. That’s going to be a big challenge every time, and will cost a lot at first, but once these improved technologies go mainstream, prices will drop and we’ll all be better off. It’s good that Ford is joining efforts to improve industrial technologies so we can get there.
Featured image by Ford.
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