The Importance of Transportation and Fuel Sources
By: Georgina Steel
As I have become more environmentally conscious I subsequently became more aware of how dependent Massachusetts and especially people of my generation are on cars. We don’t tend to use public transportation very often. This is partially the fault of The MBTA, because its condition does not compel us to use it. Also, particularly in the United States, we have made driving a personal car a luxury. It is a sign of status to have a car and drive yourself around. So, when people get enough money they will buy a car and show everyone they have the advantage of independence. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been drastically increasing over the past few years and the car industry has a lot to do with that. The United States have built their transportation systems around roads and put public transportation on the back burner, so it is squeezed in randomly at the end.
I go to Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I sent out a survey to my high school and got about 100 responses from a range of 9th-12th graders and teachers. This made my data pool be a good mix of my school. Cambridge is a quite liberal and progressive town, but I was still surprised at some of the responses. However, the answer to one question that came as no surprise were was I asked people their gender in the survey and the females lead with 60%. From what I have seen, the environmentally proactive people tend to be mostly women.
Now it’s time for you to take a survey too:
The Effect of CO2 From Cars on the Earth
The US Energy Information Agency estimates that, in 2015, transportation emissions for U.S. motor gasoline added up to about 1,105 million metric tons of CO2 and emissions from diesel fuel added up to 440 million metric tons of CO2. This totaled to 1,545 million metric tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere in one year by cars in the US. This was equivalent to 83% of total U.S. transportation sector CO2 emissions, showing how cars are a primary mode of transportation in the US. It is also equivalent to 29% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2015, which is almost one third of the US’s emissions coming from cars, even with things like factories. Cars are just such a huge part of our life. We also all seem to drive gas cars with too little concern for what affect it has on the environment. “About 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced from burning a gallon of gasoline that does not contain ethanol. About 22.38 pounds of CO2 are produced from burning a gallon of diesel fuel.” “It seems impossible that a gallon of gasoline, which weighs about 6.3 pounds, could produce almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned. However, most of the weight of the CO2 doesn’t come from the gasoline itself, but the oxygen in the air.” (https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=307&t=11)
Through my survey, I wanted to estimate how much CO2 the varied group of 98 gas car users gave off. Cars travel about 20 miles per gallon. 61 people travel 5 miles, 27 travel 15 miles, 9 travel 25 miles, 1 travels 45 miles. For the sake of my calculation let’s say that 20 pounds of CO2 is released into the atmosphere when one gallon of gas is used. 305+405+225+45=980 pounds of CO2 for one trip to school. 1960 pounds of CO2 for a round trip, so for one day. The average amount of school days in a year is 180 so 180 x 1960 = 352,800. The control group of 98 people in my survey who drive gas cars produce 352,800 pounds of CO2 every school year, which is outrageous.
Alternative Modes of Transportation
Buses reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because the more people that take public transportation, the more people that are out of personal cars. Buses are already running, so why not use them. It is like a massive carpool and runs on a timed schedule so you can plan your day around it, so that it is no inconvenience to you. With more people taking the bus, there is less traffic on the road and everyone can get to their destination faster. Many argue that a bus requires more gas so there for emits more CO2 in order to run, however, since it is already running, it is more efficient to use the transportation that is there rather than adding to the emissions by driving your own car.
Trains are great alternative to cars because there is no traffic at all. Sure they might get busy during rush hour, but they run on their own track, making your morning and night commute much faster and very predictable as far as timing goes. There never is a traffic jam in the tunnels underground. Trains also come relatively frequently, so you don’t have to wait for too long. Many people including my friends and I, take the train in Boston, because parking is so limited and it covers a lot of the inner city.
To reduce your carbon footprint you should carpool more! The more people in the car, the less CO2 emissions and traffic there will be, because it takes other cars off the road. Also, everyone can share the cost of gas in order to save money.
I thought it was a shame that even though a lot of people at BB&N could have carpooled to school together and they knew it too, they chose not to. I took the chance to educate my school about carbon emissions from cars and their affect on the environment through my school newspaper. I am sure many more people will decide to carpool now. I also brought up the idea on carpool parking spots in order to encourage carpooling. However, my school is already low on parking, because we are right next to a big intersection and a river, so my school was hesitant to make these parking spots. I hope that they will keep it in their mind and maybe create them later.
Electric cars don’t use any gas, so they don’t have CO2 emissions while they are driving. However, they need to be charged up overnight, which uses electricity from the grid that is mostly produced using coal. So electric cars do have CO2 emissions, just not as much as a normal gas car. They are also usually cheaper than a normal gas fueled car, so they are really worth it. Governments also usually subsidize electric cars, which helpful because money is always a big incentive. The one draw back is they can’t drive super long distances without being plugged in again. Since they charge so slowly you also really should keep it charging all night.
In my survey I asked people if they wanted an electric car charging station. I realized that building a charging station and getting all the planning permission for it was a little out of my reach in such a short time frame. I also did not get enough people interested according to my principal. However, it was great that 67% or 2/3rds of the survey group wanted one. I have started the ball rolling and I hope the Eco Reps at my school will continue my project. Many people think it is ridiculous getting an electric car charger at school though, because not enough people have electric cars. However, I believe that “if we build it they will come.” So basically if we put in an electric car charger at school more people would buy them. It would give you good parking as well, which is important in a city school, like mine, with limited parking options.
How are you going to change your mode of transportation in order to reduce your carbon footprint? What did the initial survey reveal about you? Tell me in the comments below.
This video summarizes what I have stated in my presentation. It is almost 30 mins and is great to watch when you have the time!