Good news: Pollution from industry is down about 10% from 1990.
Bad news: Transportation is about to become the biggest polluter.
Partly from regulation and partly because they found it more profitable, industry is wasting fewer resources. Factories are running more efficiently, redirecting waste into useful byproducts, and using cleaner energy. Smokestacks are becoming less important than tail pipes. One of the ways industry became more efficient was to use just-in-time processes. Less material was stored onsite, and was only delivered as it was needed. Consumers now also expect same day delivery, are more likely to buy numerous times online rather than visit the store in a few larger shopping events. The consequence is that trucking has become more important because it can reach more addresses than any other transportation system.
“when you look within the transportation sector, we see that trucking is up significantly as a proportion, going from 14.9 percent in 1990 to 22.5 percent in 2014” – Treehugger
While vehicles are becoming more efficient, so are the demands for rapid delivery. Frequently, when transportation improves, we use it more. That suggests that transportation has more influences increasing rather than decreasing its effect. Driverless vehicles, electric vehicles, and both may change the trend; but we’ll have to wait to see how we use the new capabilities.
(Click on the graph for the link.)