By Meenal Raval
Fossil fuels are everywhere in our daily lives. So much so that we hardly notice them. Doing the laundry? Your dryer is likely burning gas. Taking a shower? Your basement water heater is likely burning gas, too. A quick quesadilla before heading out? Umm…likely your stove is a gas stove. And that disposable water bottle you just tossed into your bag for the day? It’s made of plastic, which is made from oil.
About to plan a road trip? The gasoline that you fill’er up with is refined from crude oil—a fossil fuel.
When we drive a car, each gallon of gasoline used emits about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This can add up over the course of a year.
For example, I drove a Honda Fit, offering about 27 miles per gallon, for about 10,000 miles each year. The resultant annual emissions were about 7,400 pounds, or 3.35 metric tons of CO2.
There’s a popular and feasible idea for transitioning away from fossil fuels. Electrify everything. Your dryer could be replaced with an electric dryer, or a clothesline. Your water heater could be replaced with an electric one, even a tankless one. Your stove could also be replaced with an electric one; fancy stoves called induction cooktops offer the same control over the pan as a gas stove. The single-use water bottle has countless refillable options, in styles for everyone. But the car?
There are alternatives to the gasoline car, too. In the transportation scene, they call them multi-modal. Basically, the car isn’t the right option for every trip. Consider walking, cycling, using mass transit or car-sharing, and then, if you must, an electric car. Each of these use much less fossil fuel energy (and related greenhouse gas emissions) than a single-occupancy gasoline car.
For your daily getting around, see if you can leave the car at home more often. Jot this on the kitchen calendar, and reward yourself each day you do so! For trips to the shore this summer, consider the bus or the train.
Most days now, I bike to work since it’s just a half-mile away. When I need to get from Mt. Airy to Center City, there’s the regional rail station around the corner, that can get me downtown within a half hour. Since train service is infrequent, I sometimes opt to take a bus to the Broad Street Line. The bus shows up within minutes, and the BSL gets me to the City Hall station within 15 minutes. I’ve found there’s no need to drive the car into town, only to deal with traffic congestion and paying for parking. When I do drive these days, I drive an electric car.
An electric car has no tailpipe and therefore, no tailpipe emissions. Many have said that’s untrue, reminding me that the electricity on our grid comes from a mix of generation sources—coal, oil, gas and nuclear, which definitely have emissions. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, just switching from a gasoline car to an electric car reduces your emissions by about 60%, no matter where you recharge. Since many electric car drivers recharge at home, when the home has rooftop solar panels installed, the emissions drop to zero.
So, think multi-modal. And think electric. And soon, you too will find yourself declaring independence from the pump!
Meenal Raval is a catalyst for the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, and Solarize Southeast PA, to assist people in the Philadelphia suburbs transition away from fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas and gasoline.