Contributed by Sally Ellison
Transportation is a very normal part of most people’s lives and they depend on it for work, daily errands, and social and leisure activities. If you’re reading this, you are conscious of your impact on the planet when doing these tasks. It can be difficult to know whether public or personal transport is better and what to do to make greener choices.
How private transportation affects the planet
According to the American Census survey, there are 1.8 cars per US household with 91.3% of homes owning a vehicle. Having your own car is convenient and very normal, but it has environmental impacts.
Petroleum is extracted from the earth. This very energy-intensive process can also damage local ecosystems. Remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. While disasters on such a large scale are uncommon, the devastating effects of this one spill on marine life, wildlife, beaches, health and the economy and are still apparent today. Smaller leaks happen regularly.
Refining petroleum to make gasoline likewise requires a lot of energy and can do a lot of environmental damage. Transporting fuel from the refinery to the gas station has its own environmental impacts. All before it is even burnt for use in a car.
Personal cars and trucks account for almost one-fifth of all US emissions. Add public transportation and shipping, and our transport sector contributes nearly 30%. These emissions directly correlate with global warming, which is responsible for a whole host of problems, from rising sea levels to increased health issues.
Eco-friendly private transportation
Technology is developing new ways to power cars that are greener and cleaner. Fuel-efficient vehicles use less fuel to travel the same distance as a regular vehicle.
The type of fuels used can reduce emissions. Government regulations have made gasoline cleaner than it used to be. Cellulosic biofuels emit 80% less pollutants compared to gasoline. Electric vehicles (EVs) are a great option. If they can use renewable electricity, such as solar power, they produce zero emissions The market and demand for them is already growing.
Many countries are committed to taking internal combustion engines off the road in an effort to protect the environment and switch to eco-friendly cars. Norway plans to ban sales of cars with internal combustion engines by 2025, and the UK by 2040. The actual environmental benefits depend on how eco-friendly the production of the electricity powering EVs is.
The effect of public transport
According to some estimates, US public transport reduces carbon emissions by 37% each year. The more people use it, the more efficient it becomes. A bus only needs seven passengers on it to be more fuel efficient than a car carrying one passenger, and a full train is an average of fifteen times more fuel efficient than a car.
Of course, not everyone can use public transport, and it has its downsides. It takes longer to get places. It’s hard for people with poor mobility or who travel with pets. But when it comes to protecting the environment, using public transport no negatives. You should always opt for it where possible unless you have a zero-emissions electric car.
Public transport is going green
The last ten years have seen more buses and trains using alternative fuels, such as electricity, to make them greener. Switching to public transport will take more private cars off the road, thus reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.
Combining this with public transport increasing its efficiency is one of the best ways to slow down climate change and global warming. Using public transport will also result in fewer vehicles on the road, which will benefit ecosystems as less infrastructure and road repairs will be needed.
Even if you can’t afford to switch your car to a green vehicle, you can still alter the way you travel to reduce the impact your transportation has on the planet. Use public transport, carpool, walk or cycle and combine errands into one trip to reduce emissions. Electric, clean cars will become the norm and this technology will be used for public transport too. It will give realistic and affordable options in the near future that will help to protect the planet.