As gas prices continue to rise throughout the nation, rumors of oil conspired wars loom in the Middle East, and the lingering threat of human-induced harmful global warming becomes a reality; it is clear that an alternative form of energy must be implemented soon to replace the nation’s addiction to oil. While oil is used for many different forms of energy, vehicles used for transportation are responsible for a large portion of the oil consumption in the United States. Therefore, the need to convert our gas-guzzling autos to run off of alternative forms of energy is the first step to wining our nation off of oil usage.
Over the past decade, there have been several attempts to produce alternative forms of energy which can be converted to power by our every day drivers. These attempts have encompassed everything from solar to alcohol powered vehicles; however, due to lack of technology most of these non-greenhouse emitting vehicles have remained as nothing more than a dream. However, electric vehicles proves to be the exception as it has already been mass produced in 1996 by one of the Nations leading auto manufactures.
The first initial push that drove automobile producers to create an electric car came from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The CARB mandated that 2% of the cars sold in California by 1998 must be considered “Zero Emission Vehicles”(ZEVs). After the 1998 dead line, new requirements were made by the CARB, mandating that by 2003, 10% of all automobiles sold in California must be ZEVs (Motavalli, 1997).
General Motors was one of the first companies to meet the CARB’s new mandates for the first zero emission vehicle. They did this with the release of the first electric vehicle known as the EV1 (Electric Vehicle 1). Conversely, soon after General Motors started, they abandoned the popular project joining the Federal Government in successfully suing the State of California to remove the CARB zero emissions requirements.
Hence, despite the large need, want and availability of the mass production of electric vehicles—they are still not being produced due to the overwhelming influence of oil driven industries and the Federal Government’s lack of intervention.
Global warming has been the center of environmental debate since 1896 when Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, hypnotized that the build up of carbon dioxide, produced by burning fossil fuels, such as coal, would increase the temperature on the planet (Clemmitt, 2006). Since the establishment of Arrhenisus’ theory on global warming over 100 years ago, scientific advancements, and new technologies have re-enforced his theory. However, the most convincing evidence of global warming is the actual changes that are occurring throughout the globe.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global temperature has increased by one degree Fahrenheit (Clemmitt, 2006). While one degree may not seem worthy of alarm, a change in one degree can cause a devastating domino effect that can lead to the demise of the entire planet. For example, the one-degree increase in the global temperature has caused many of the worlds glaciers to begin to melt. Glacier melting is currently affecting Montana’s Glacier National Park, where nearly 120 glaciers have melted since 1910. As glaciers, such as those in Montana’s Glacier National Park, melt they cause the sea levels throughout the world to rise in both temperature and depth. Although the negative effects of melting glaciers and rising sea levels may not seem detrimental, the increase temperatures from global warming are responsible for “… providing added fuel to growing storms and hurricanes, making them more intense” (Lener, 2006). The overwhelming deadly aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has been directly attributed to global warming. Rising global temperatures are also being blamed for the European heat wave of 2003 that was responsible for killing 25,000 people (Clemmitt 2006). The list of increasing powerful and frequent natural disasters continues to grow as the globe continues to heat up.
The director of Climate and Global Dynamics Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, James Hurrell, told the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently that, “The climate is changing, and the rate of change as projected exceeds anything seen in nature in the past 10,000 years” (Clemmitt, 2006). With the deadly effects of global warming already unfolding throughout the world, the solution must be implemented immediately.
Currently, green house gasses are the highest they have been in 75,000 years. In addition, human emitted carbon dioxide is at the highest levels it has ever been in the history of man (Clemmitt, 2006). Hence, it is hard to ignore the theory, of human induced-global warming, when green house gas concentrations are parallel to the large amount of human produced carbon dioxide. It is also hard to ignore a panel of nearly 25,000 scientists gathered together in 2001 to form the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The team of scientist reported “That most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is attributable to human activities” (Cooper 2001). They furthered their argument by predicting that the Earth’s overall temperature could climb up to eleven degrees Fahrenheit, under the worst-case conditions, if the amount of green house gases continue to rise (Cooper 2001). If this takes place scientists have projected that “such a rise could inundate many low-lying islands and eventually threaten such areas as the New York City borough of Manhattan and Miami Beach” (Griffin, 1992). The green house gases responsible for current and future disasters are made-up of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the direct result of the burning of fossil fuels and the source of most of the danger.
As show in Figure 1, nearly 1/3 of the increased levels of carbon dioxide can be contributed to transportation ( Cooper 2001).
Carbon dioxide is one of the byproducts that are produced by the burning of gasoline within the combustible engine found in all cars and trucks on the road today.
In other words, one of the solutions to preventing further global warming is to either stop transportation all together or implement an alternative form of energy, which does not produce carbon dioxide, to power our vehicles. Obviously, the economy and the human way of life would cease to exist if we stopped transportation altogether. However, the obvious decision to use an alternative form of fuel to save the earth is rejected by major oil companies and other related industries to keep Americans addicted to oil in order not to loose their $300 billion dollar a year industry (Motavalli, 1997).