Clean Technology: Remaking Auto Alley

Catherine Tumber, Research Affiliate with MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, believes that renewable clean technology can bring industry and prosperity back to America.

| January 8, 2014

Small, Gritty, and Green by Catherine Tumber

"Small, Gritty, and Green," by Catherine Tumber, argues the viability of renewables in America's once prosperous small to mid-sized industrial towns.

Cover courtesy of The MIT Press

In Small, Gritty, and Green (MIT Press, 2012), Catherine Tumber takes a look into America’s once thriving industrial cities throughout the Rust Belt. Many cities in this region are known for their prevalence in auto manufacturing. This excerpt from Chapter 5, "Making Good," considers how clean technology throughout Auto Alley could contribute to a shift toward low-carbon economy and benefit all levels of the auto industry.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Small, Gritty, and Green.

The Solar Industry in Auto Alley

Today much of what is left of American manufacturing is dispersed throughout the small cities and towns of Auto Alley, an enormous swathe of land grouped between the north-south routes of I-65 (from Gary, Indiana, to Mobile, Alabama) and I-75 (between Flint, Michigan, and Atlanta, Georgia). The now-deconcentrated auto industry is geographically divided roughly between the North and South, with Japanese and other foreign transfer companies predominating in the South and U.S. companies in the North. Thanks to what the industry calls just-in-time sourcing since the 1980s — meaning that parts have to be within a short delivery distance from assembly plants — the more than 3,000 parts suppliers in Auto Alley serve both types of firms. As a result, the auto industry has been shielded from the most extreme forms of offshoring that decimated the electrical and consumer goods industries: three-quarters of the parts destined for U.S. auto assembly plants are made in the United States.

The small industrial cities of Auto Alley and elsewhere, obscured by national media attention given to Detroit’s troubles, can flourish again in new, more sustainable ways. To do so, their supply shops and engineering infrastructure must draw on their strengths to retool and diversify for the emerging renewable energy economy. Even if the automotive industry transitions into clean technology-powered vehicle production, experts say that its supply chain is likely to contract in the face of global competition, making it all the more imperative for its suppliers to prepare for renewables.

1/9/2014 2:40:01 PM

This is a very interesting article connecting the solar and transportation industries. I suggest that anyone interested in cleaning their medium or heavy duty trucks or buses look into eNow, Inc. eNow is the leader in providing solar based auxiliary power systems to the transportation industry. These systems are mounted on trucks and provide power to lift gates, safety lighting, climate control systems, refrigeration units, and other auxiliary units, saving thousands in fuel and engine maintenance costs as well as significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. They are only a few centimeters thick and very light weight. ROI is from 9 month to under 2 years.

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