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Transportation - Planes, Trains and Automobiles
While it's to expensive to just go out and replace your existing automobile, what you drive, has the single biggest impact on your carbon footprint on this earth! If you can get by without a personal automobile you'll be much better off financially. Even if you own a car, van or light truck, take a hard look at alternatives such as public transit, bike or walking. The alternatives often involve some physical activity which has health benefits of their own.
Do you really need that big SUV, truck or van? Can you get by with one vehicle and/or renting a "larger" vehicle on the few occasions when you need one? The average fuel economy for an American automobile has fallen 5% in the past 20 years, from a high of 22.1 in 1987 to 21 mpg today.
Motorized or not, you'll be better off with a bike than using a car or truck to get where you're going. Of course a pedal bike is "THE" way to go. No pollution, easy to park and you get and stay in shape.... eliminates the need for a gym membership too! Some governments are even jumping on board. In Ontario, the provincial government has made the purchase of bicycles sales tax exempt.
These vehicles usually have a combination of power drives such as an electric motor and a gas or diesel engine. Often the gas engine will be shut off completely when traveling at very low speeds or when idling. The combination of gas-electric, greatly increases the range of the vehicle over a gasoline-only or electric-only car. Do pay attention to the miles-per-gallon or litres-per-kilometer numbers for both city, highway and combined driving. If you do almost all of your driving on a highway, a fuel efficient diesel will be more cost effective than a hybrid.
If you must have a vehicle, then electric plug-in is the way to go. The vast majority of daily car trips are under 10 miles (16 kilometers) in distance. Several manufactures are now offering plug-in electric vehicles, with even more announcements for new vehicles just a year or so away. See our section on Electric Plugin Vehicles. Several of these electric cars will travel over 100 miles per charge and reach speeds over 60 mph.
Some of the greenest cars are listed on the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website. The vehicles can be listed by best fuel economy, best by vehicle size as well as other methods.
Some of the best mileage vehicles right now include:
See the US EPA Site here: US EPA
Made from vegetable oils or animal fat, biodiesel can be burned directly in new model vehicles without any changes. Much older diesel engines may need some rubber seals replaced. In cold climates, biodiesel comes premixed with fossil fuel diesel in the winter to prevent the fuel from gelling. Biodiesel greatly reduces emissions compared to fossil fuel based diesel, in all categories except particulate matter. The production of biodiesel is also fairly efficient, unlike corn ethanol. Alternative fuels should be looked at only as a temporary step, to full electric vehicles.
While several countries are producing ethanol as a fuel for vehicles, the benefits are mostly through use of local produce to produce the ethanol, thus keeping the money within the country. Brazil for example, imports very little gasoline as most vehicles run on locally produced ethanol. From a greenhouse gas perspective, it takes almost as much energy to make corn ethanol as you get out of it when you burn it (2:1). Sugarcane ethanol has a much better ratio of about 9:1.
A small company called Amyris is working on a process that would use yeast or bacteria to turn sugars directly into fuel . In theory, you would have about a 1000:1 payback as very little energy would be used to make the fuel. This company has already developed a vaccine for Malaria, using a similar process, that cut the cost of this vaccine in half. They are also working on a low carbon jet fuel for Virgin Airlines.
Algae: Several test sites are in operation. Concern exists regarding the various strains of algae being used and environment issues should some of these escape the lab. One promising test site takes the carbon dioxide from a coal fired electrical generator's stack, and uses it as feed for the algae. This results are mixed though the process has the potential to use carbon twice: Once to make electricity, Second to as a fuel for vehicles - then into the air it goes.
Drive @ 55mph/90kph for best fuel efficiency
Why is 55 miles per hour or 90 kilometers per hour the best speed? It's because of the "air drag". As you increase your speed above this rate, the drag causes a very significant reduction in your gas mileage. Turns out this is the most efficient speed to travel. See our Tips page for improving your mileage.
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