, 7). The emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) has been widely considered to be the main cause of this problem, and the effect they have on the earth is to change the constitution of its atmosphere in such a way that weathers around the world have also been affected (Kyoto Protocol, 437). Industrial activity as well as fossil-fuel burning has been in large part the contributor to this dilemma (Klare). The Clean-Air Acts of 1990 were implemented in an effort to reclaim the environment.
The Acts have included provisions that limit the amount of damaging substances that countries are allowed to release into the atmosphere (SUV Info), and one of the most damaging of these substances is the carbon dioxide that is given off in the exhaust of fuel burning vehicles (SUV Info). Scientists have shown that more carbon dioxide exists in the atmosphere today than there was a hundred years ago (Robinson, et al. 1). In fact, its proportion has increased by about 30 per cent (Sierra Club).
Over these hundred years, another change has taken place: the average temperature at the surface of the earth has risen by more than one degree Fahrenheit (Sierra Club). Though a degree might appear small, this fact that this temperature change spreads unevenly around the globe means that in some areas (such as polar areas that contain enormous ice caps), the increase has been greater and/or significant enough to cause a high degree of melting (Kyoto Protocol, 437).
As a result, global warming has become a noticeable reality in the past few years, and the 1990s have proven to be the hottest decade in recorded history (Sierra Club). Droughts, heat spells, and global warming related diseases have killed many in the past few years. Melting polar ice caps have led to a rise in sea level of approximately 4-10 inches within this time as well, and this can be seen as a major contributor to many of the floods the earth has known in recent times (Sierra Club). (One such example would be that which occurred during Hurricane Katrina.
) At the root of this problem is the over-consumption of the fossil fuel-derived gasoline by human driven motor vehicles (Peralta; Sierra Club; SUV Info). Cars, truck, minivans and sports utility vehicles are fossil-fuel burners (Sierra Club; SUV Info). They contain internal combustion engines that run on oil taken from deep within the earth and formed over millions of years. Quite a large portion of the global warming problems can be attributed to the emissions from these vehicles within the United States.
In a report given by the Planet and Development Network, it has been shown that contributions to global warming in 2004 as a result of U. S. cars, trucks, sports utility vehicles, and other personal modes of transportation amounted to 314 million metric tones. This has been graphically compared to the volume of carbon that can be carried by a coal train that extends for 55,000 miles, representing enough coal to equal the length of the equator twice over (Peralta). This has further been linked to 42 percent of all the carbon dioxide pollution produced by the United States (Klare).
It is no wonder that the fastest growing contributor to the problem of global warming is the transportation industry (Sierra Club). It has also been demonstrated that the cars produced by the company General Motors, by itself, give out enough carbon to surpass that emitted by the largest electric-producing company in the United States, American Electric Power. Likewise, the fourth leading producer of cars, Toyota, manufactures products whose carbon emissions surpass that of the third largest power company, Tennessee Valley Authority (Peralta).
Right now, it is small cars that do the most damage to the ozone layer and therefore have the greatest effect on global warming. This is because more people drive these cars, so that they represent the vast majority of all personal vehicles. Soon, however, it is expected that sports utility vehicles will take over the market, and when/if that happens the problem of vehicles effects on global warming will be worsened (Peralta).
Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are actually considered to be light trucks rather than cars by the government, and this classification grants these vehicles the right to use up more gas than the average personal small car (Sierra Club; SUV Info). Despite this, more people drive SUVs as regular cars than use them for farming or construction purposes. It is sad, therefore, that SUVs have a much more adverse effect on the environment than other cars. While passenger cars have been given fuel burning goal levels (by the Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFE) of 27.
5 miles to the gallon, SUV standards are as low as 20. 7 miles per gallon (SUV Info). When the classification of SUVs as light trucks was made, only 20 per cent of vehicles owned by the public were actually SUVs”and this referred mainly to such vehicles that hauled hay or stones on a farm or construction site (Sierra Club). Now the situation has changed, to the detriment of the environment. Currently, such light trucks as represented by SUVs and minivans make up nearly half of all new vehicles sold in the United States (Sierra Club).
Some of these SUVs, such as the Ford Excursion, have become so large that they are no longer even considered light trucks and are therefore not bound by any of the regulations concerning fuel consumption (SUV Info). Despite the fact that technology exists that would allow these cars to burn fuel more efficiently, the fact that they continue to be held to very low standards have been a great cost to the environment. As a result, these light trucks emit an annual total of 237 million metric tons of pollutants into the air, because every gallon of gasoline burned by these vehicles produces 28 pounds of carbon dioxide (Sierra Club).
Each car today that is able to cover 27. 5 miles for every gallon of gasoline will inevitably dump 54 lifetime tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (SUV Info). As bad as this seems, things get even worse when one considers the SUV. Any SUV, which gets on average about half as much mileage as a smaller car, will still put out about 100 lifetime tons of carbon dioxide into the air (SUV Info). A Ford Excursion is even less fuel efficient than this. One writer from Harpers Magazine test drove a Ford Excursion and found that it ran for only 3.
7 miles on one gallon of gasoline! Such a vehicle is estimated to have the capacity to produce up to 134 tons of the main greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide) in its lifetime (cited in SUV Info). A rough calculation that was done decades ago by the National Academy of Sciences found that a lack of improvement in fuel burning during the 1970s would result in a record consumption of 2. 8 million barrels of oil per day. This amount was astounding at that time; today, it represents only 14 per cent of what is actually consumed within the United States (SUV Info).
Worse still is the fact that any improvements that have occurred regarding fuel consumption have been confined to the 70s and 80s. Fuel economy has been on the decline ever since those years. In 2000, for instance, average fuel consumption per gallon for new vehicles hit a low of 24 miles per gallon (mpg). The increased demand for sports utility and other heavier passenger vehicles is responsible for much of this decrease (SUV Info). One solution to this crisis would be to reduce consumers demand for sports utility vehicles and their other light truck counterparts, such as minivans and pick-up trucks.
In fact, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has reported that one of the most important things you can do to reduce global warming pollution is to buy a vehicle with higher fuel economy (SUV Info). The use of smaller cars would reduce the output of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by about 10 metric tons over the lifetime of that vehicle (SUV Info). Other possible solutions include an improvement in the fuel-burning efficiency of cars. The use of hybrid cars is one such option.
These cars contain a very small and efficient fuel-driven engine, as well as an electricity-powered motor that runs alongside it. This motor helps the fuel-burning engine during acceleration. The electric motor is fed by batteries that have the capacity to renew themselves automatically while a car drives. The lightness of the material used to make these cars also increases the efficiency of its fuel consumption (Eartheasy). One such Hybrid, the Toyota Prius, gets 52 miles per gallon (Highly Bred).
Another option is the use of pure electric cars, which carry all the benefits of hybrids, and do not use gasoline at all (Highly Bred). A third solution is found in the use of gasohol (mixture of gasoline and ethanol) to run cars. In fact, in Minnesota, a mandatory mixing of gasoline with ethanol should come into effect by 2013 (Gartner). Though in the case of gasohol, gasoline reduction would not prove to be as large as with hybrid and electric cars, some improvement would be made. Public transportation presents itself as another (and possibly more feasible) solution to the global warming problem.
Public transportation can be defined as vehicles (or system governing such vehicles) that facilitate the collective travel of a number of unrelated persons to and from particular destinations at any given time. The term also includes the idea of mass transport, which modifies the definition to include the transportation of large numbers of persons all at once. The key word in this extended definition is the use of the adjective mass. According to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the more persons who use public transportation, the more efficient will be the solution to the problem of global warming (ELPC).
Within the most densely populated areas of the United States, for example, the highest levels of air pollution can be found to exist. Because people tend to enjoy driving in their individual cars, this leads to build-up of traffic in a relatively small space”and this translates to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases. Yet public transportation has the ability to solve these issues, as it provides a way to reduce emissions into the atmosphere while facilitating easier travel for the vast amounts of people that populate urban areas.