Imagine an average weekday. Wake up early, roll out of bed, eat some breakfast, get in a car, and drive to work. Now, which part of this routine is a problem? It all starts when the key enters the ignition. Unfortunately, Americans routinely drive everywhere, often unnecessarily, seemingly without considering the alternate methods of transportation which are available to them. In truth, many commuters may be aware of the options available, but they rarely use them. Currently, the United States of America imports 3.65 billion barrels of oil per year. That’s a billion barrels a day! (Answers.com - How Many Cars Are Currently in the US). Because of this gross overuse of resources, the US has become dependent on foreign imports such as oil, resulting in the majority of the country’s infrastructure to rely on foreign governments. Aside from social issues, burning all of these fossil fuels contributes to the “carbon footprint”, or how much CO2 and greenhouse gasses each individual person creates; the larger the footprint, the greater the detriment to the environment. According to statistics from the US government census, there are currently 235,176,162 Americans over the age of eighteen (U.S. & World Population Clock). This number gives an accurate idea of American drivers on the road because it is the most reliable number for the largest group eligible to be licensed. However, there are currently more automobiles registered and on the road than there are drivers, about 246,000,000 cars and trucks total (Answers.com - How Many Cars Are Currently in the US). This inane and unnecessary obsession with personal transportation has driven the US into a corner, and, as evidenced by the steady rise in CO2 emissions, the corner is slowly filling with the byproducts of America’s obsessive consumerism (Carbon Dioxide Emissions Charts).
By utilizing alternative and eco-friendly modes of transportation, U.S. citizens can do their part to help curb their country’s addiction to oil and help save the planet in the process. Currently, most Americans use transportation in two areas of their lives, transport to work and recreation. Many Americans usually drive to work themselves in cars made for multiple people, which do not fully utilize the current fuel conservation technology. These commuters often overlook the alternate methods of transport which are available. Aside from driving, residents can utilize the numerous bus stops which span the country, which would allow them to travel to work in an eco friendly and economically reasonable way. Aside from buses, a myriad of other transportation alternatives exist. These alternatives include bike riding, car pooling, using commuter rails, utilizing alternate fuels, or simply commuting on foot. All of these alternatives are attainable, usable, and efficient, and should be utilized by the majority of commuters.
When oil and gas are burned for transport, multiple air pollutants, including CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, are released into the air. Even for short trips, automobiles are harmful to the environment. 60% of the emissions released by vehicles occur within the first few minutes of operation, before the vehicle can warm up and the emission control can begin (League of American Bicyclists * Ride for Transportation). So, even with the best intentions, commuters often unknowingly add to atmospheric pollution. Beyond the environment, automobile emissions are harmful to those who inhabit the area around it. In fact, pollution from automobiles has been linked to asthma, lung cancer, increased stress, and disturbed sleep (Bilzon). Now considering the millions of automobiles in America, the effects from air pollutant inhalation are visibly widespread, and simply altering our transportation habits would help everybody’s health. Currently, utilizing personal transportation is not an eco friendly process. This is because transportation typically accounts for half of a person’s carbon footprint (Frequent Questions - Emissions | Climate Change | U.S. EPA). By these statistics, if Americans were to cut the amount they drive in half, one eighth of all Americans emissions would be gone. While this may seem like a small number, take into account that Americans use 100 quadrillion BTU’s (British thermal units) per year (MacZulak). By cutting the amount of transportation in half, Americans will reduce that number by 6.25 quadrillion BTU’s per year, simply by utilizing alternate methods of transportation. Currently, America is coming to the point where there may not be much time to change commuters habits, and the longer America puts it off, the harder the transition will be. This is why alternative methods of transport need to be widely invested in and utilized immediately.