As a natural-born tree-hugger, some wonder why I’m an editor for fluid power and manufacturing publications. Wouldn’t a person who values environmentalism participate in more “green” efforts? Yet, I cover mobile machines that cut down trees, hydraulic systems that rely on oil rigs, and automation equipment that expedites manufacturing (and subsequently creates more stuff that often ends up in landfills and oceans.)
I’ve questioned it myself and wondered if my values and choices are misaligned. But the truth is, the more I learn, the more I understand the complexity of our evolution and how deeply our daily lives intertwine. I truly appreciate how hard it is to fulfill so many conflicting goals while being conscious of everything else.
Regarding sustainability and environmental impacts, it’s easy to focus on the negative aspects and shun all of humanity’s mistakes. But there’s still so much to celebrate, and those of us with engineering mindsets see every challenge as an opportunity to improve.
Coincidentally, as I pondered all this, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) released a study on the “Benefits of Construction Equipment Technologies and Their Impact on Society.” It noted that modern engines and drivetrains are more efficient than they were 27 years ago when the EPA instituted non-road engine regulations. Today’s tier 4 engines are roughly 11 to 15% more fuel efficient per machine hour and do more work per gallon of fuel consumed. Though the statistic may seem underwhelming, it’s a significant improvement when scaled up across all machines in use today. AEM compares this to permanently removing 1,350,000 cars — the amount registered in New Hampshire — from the road. That certainly helps visualize the impact.
The study also noted that construction equipment produces 96% less NOx and particulate emissions per gallon of diesel consumed and 13% less CO2 emissions per machine hour than it did 30 years ago. It would take 25 modern wheel loaders to produce the same emissions that one wheel loader from 1990 would release.
This demonstrates that we live in a world that strives to mitigate environmental impacts from past decisions and continuously innovate for more environmentally conscious futures. Of course, there’s plenty more work to do, but it’s important to take a step back from time to time and acknowledge the work done thus far.
Globally, companies are adopting more solutions to improve air quality, reduce waste, and conserve energy. Innovation abounds and accelerates next-generation technology that builds upon all our lessons learned. It’s not an overnight change, but change is happening. And as long as we stay on this path, we’ll surely see continued improvements — and have so much more to celebrate — for years to come.
Filed Under: Fluid Power World Magazine Articles