NEW YORK — Michelin has been "going green" since 1992, and it wants to make sure the world knows it.
The tire maker introduced "Green Meters" on Oct. 30 on the stock market boards of four major cities worldwide-New York, Paris, Berlin and Shanghai. These displays demonstrate Michelin´s commitment to its environmental program by keeping a running tally of the gallons of fuel and tons of carbon dioxide emissions the company has saved over the past 15 years and beyond, Michelin officials said at the New York launch.
The purpose of the Green Meters, the officials said, is to make consumers aware of what Michelin is doing environmentally and to help them make environmentally friendly choices when buying tires.
"The tires you choose make an environmental difference," said Jim Micali, chairman and president of Michelin North America Inc., during the event´s keynote speech. "They impact how your vehicle performs, how much you spend on fuel and the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that your vehicle emits."
"For an individual, tires may seem like a small choice," Micali said. "For a trucking fleet, it is a smart business decision that can save millions. But together, the hundreds of millions of Michelin green energy-saving tires on the road are making a difference for the air we breathe and the planet we inhabit together."
Road transportation accounts for 45 percent of the oil used worldwide and 18 percent of all the fossil-derived carbon dioxide emissions, according to Micali. Nine percent of worldwide oil consumption and 3.5 percent of carbon dioxide emissions can be traced directly to tire performance, which makes tires a significant contributor to both.
The importance of tire performance to environment and conservation becomes even clearer when you consider the number of vehicles on the road, Micali said. In 1950, there were 50 million vehicles in the world. This increased to 800 million in 2000 and is expected to double to 1.6 billion by 2030.
Three-fourths of the tires Michelin sells in Europe-both original equipment and replacement-are "green" tires, Micali said. Those tires haven´t made as many inroads in the U.S. as of yet, but he said the company expects them to do so as the fuel and emissions savings they offer become common knowledge.
For instance, there are now more than 500,000 Michelin X One wide single truck tires on the road in the U.S., he said. By eliminating the need for dual tires, the X One turns 18-wheelers into 10-wheelers, reduces the weight of a tractor-trailer by 720 pounds and reduces the fuel each rig burns by 4 percent, he added.
Michelin estimates that to date X One tires on U.S. roads have saved 15 million gallons of fuel and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 165,000 tons, Micali said.
Over the next two decades, Michelin will intensify its environmental and energy-saving efforts, according to Micali. These efforts will include:
— doubling the treadwear life of Michelin tires, to cut in half the amount of raw materials the company needs;
— reducing passenger tire rolling resistance an additional 50 percent; and
— reducing braking distance substantially for greater safety.
"Michelin´s objective is to ensure that by the time the number of vehicles worldwide doubles, the total tire-related consumption of fuel and raw materials for each such vehicle will be halved," Micali said.
The European Union will have a tire rolling resistance ratings system in place by 2011, according to Micali. Michelin is extremely supportive of efforts to establish similar ratings both nationally and in the state of California, where a tire fuel economy ratings law has passed the legislature, he said.
Federal tire rolling resistance ratings were part of the broader energy legislation passed this year by the Senate. A ratings provision was not part of the House bill, so it is yet to be seen whether the ratings measure will survive the House-Senate conference on the energy bill.
Micali said an earlier tire rating system — Uniform Tire Quality Grading — has existed more than 20 years without the public paying much attention to it. But a tire fuel economy rating will be something the company actively promotes.
"Back when UTQG was being promulgated, Michelin had a difficult time supporting the regulations because we didn´t think they were particularly well-written," he said. "It´s different this time. We´ll do our very best before Congress and California come up with regulations that make sense."