Green Junction: Think cars! by Julie Peller

Transportation is one of the main drivers of climate change, given that gasoline is a carbon-based fuel. In the US, fuel burned by vehicles is the largest carbon dioxide generator, accounting for 29% of all CO2 emissions. Many economists have favored a carbon tax (for decades!) to ensure a price is associated with the carbon emitted by those burning carbon-based fuels. So far, 27 countries have enacted a carbon tax, including China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, and Italy. The money generated from the tax is used to support renewable energy efforts to reduce the need for gas-fueled vehicles ultimately.
The base price of gasoline, also known as the price of crude oil, is determined in the global natural oil market, not by the country’s leader. Other parts of the overall cost of gas at the pump include transportation and processing/refining. The price of gasoline varies significantly around the world. In China, a gallon of gas is around $8.80; people in France, Spain, and Ireland pay $7.30, $6.60, and $7.20 per gallon, respectively. In line with the higher cost of fuel, the best-selling car in Europe averages in the mid-30s for miles per gallon, the Volkswagen Golf. In contrast, the Ford F-Series Pickup is the number one selling vehicle in the United States and manages nearly 20 miles for every gallon of gas.
The wealthier countries in the world create four-fifths of global carbon emissions. Most are looking to high-tech solutions to decarbonize transportation, with the main target electric vehicles charged through non-carbon fuel sources. At least six car manufacturers have made plans to convert to all-electric cars by 2030. Audi announced plans to stop manufacturing combustion engine cars by 2033, BMW plans to sell 10 million fully electric vehicles in the next decade, and GM expects to stop building polluting cars by 2035. In the meantime, putting a price on carbon, driving more efficient cars, using public transportation (including school buses), and driving fewer miles are other ways to immediately reduce vehicular carbon emissions – a critical component to addressing climate change.

Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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