Published on October 21st, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans0
Alternative Fuels and Transport
People of all ages across the world are making major lifestyle changes geared toward reducing dependence on oil and preserving the earth’s resources. The regular worldwide use of traditional gasoline-based automotive transportation is widely held by many of the world’s foremost scientists to be among the top contributors to global warming and poor air quality, and so the prospect of making significant changes to this use represents the possibility for enormous positive change in these same areas.
Alternative fuels and the vehicles that utilize are making significant positive impact not only in terms of carbon emissions and the reduction of global warming, but also to the world’s political climate, both of which are heavily affected by our use of, and dependence on, foreign oil.
Areas that are not served by larger mass transit systems have created their own solutions; ride-sharing and carpools. Both alternatives are additional ways to save on the expense of owning a car, protect the environment, and build some camaraderie with fellow commuters.
Our burgeoning interest in preserving the planet is driving significant research and yielding a number of technological advances. Among these are hybrid vehicles. These vehicles earned their name from their unique use of both gasoline and electric components that work together to power the car. Not only do these cars boost fuel economy because of more efficient operation, some models also include an automatic off/on switch that reduces the amount of energy wasted by reducing idling.
A variation of the hybrid is the plug-in hybrid. These cars use a battery that is charged by connecting to an electric power source. They do not use any fossil fuels. Plug-in hybrids also offer some of the same benefits of electric vehicles, which do not use a combustion engine and are also an energy saving alternative.
Although these alternatives are becoming more common, most are not yet widely available. Until then, concerned car owners can consult the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy to learn about their current car’s “green score.”
If your car doesn’t score well but you aren’t ready to buy another one, don’t despair; there are other modes of transportation to help you get around. Consider shared transportation – such as carpooling and ride sharing. Perhaps the most common and recognizable among energy saving transportation is mass transit or public transportation. In virtually every city, large buses lumber along crowded streets and highways. Bus service has improved quite a bit in recent years with cleaner, more comfortable and modern vehicles. Some even include monitors that allow riders to keep up with local news and events.
Bus service is often complimented by connecting train service. Train service, too, is enjoying a few upgrades. Recognizing the commuter’s love affair with electronic devices, many mass transit systems have made it possible to maintain telephone or internet connections even while traveling underground or through tunnels.
Many commuters have a love-hate relationship with public transportation, and it has only been with increased awareness of the environmental damage cars cause the atmosphere that some have settled on a compromise. Usually, this involves a car/train combination (i.e. drive to the station and ride the train) or including a few days of public transportation into the normal commute routine.
Areas that are not served by larger mass transit systems have created their own solutions; ride-sharing and carpools. Both alternatives are additional ways to save on the expense of owning a car, protect the environment, and build some camaraderie with fellow commuters. As an added bonus, using vans or carpooling offers a little less stress on the road, and many car and van pool riders enjoy being able to chat, read or even catch up on the paper, a book, or their knitting instead of weaving in and out of heavy traffic.
When we consider the environmental impact of various transportation methods we must not limit our consideration to the machine itself (scooter, motorcycle, car) we must also consider how we fuel it.
Experimentation and research continues with power alternatives such as solar powered vehicles. These use solar powered electricity to power their electric motors. Some are grid-independent. These cars use batteries and energy saving construction allowing for more flexibility.
A combination of consumer demand and an energy bill mandate that biofuel output be doubled by 2012 is fueling the push for other alternatives as well. These include: natural gas, considered a clean energy source; clean diesels, such as biodiesel, made from various forms of biomass such as soy; ultra low sulfur diesel, which burns cleaner on both old and new diesel engines and will result in significantly reduced emissions; and ethanol, which the Christian Science Monitor says is “primarily corn-based, it runs the gamut from a 10 percent gasoline additive (gasohol) that works without engine modification to E85, just 15 percent gasoline, which works in flexible-fuel vehicles. An ethanol variation, cellulosic ethanol, uses corn husks and other crop waste.”
Another possibility on the horizon is hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells, though not the hottest topic anymore, still hold a great deal of promise as we continue in our quest to find environmentally friendly fuel sources.
And what is the best fuel source of all? Foot fuel of course! Don’t forget about all the benefits for people and the planet when we choose to bike, walk or skate our way around.