Transportation & Fuel Source Technology
Breakdown of Global Warming Pollution from all the Automobiles in use on America's Roads
Cars and light trucks made by each of the Big Three automakers - GM, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler - emit more of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) than the nation's largest electric utility, American Electric Power (AEP), with its nearly 60 large coal-fired power plants and 36,000 megawatts of generating capacity, according to a new report by Environmental Defense, Global Warming on the Road. The report can be found online at http://www.environmentaldefense.org/article.cfm?contentid=5300
The report provides a first-ever detailed breakdown of global warming pollution from all the automobiles in use on America's roads. According to the report, total U.S. auto sector CO2 emissions for 2004 -- 314 million metric tons of carbon -- equaled the amount of carbon in a coal train 55,000 miles long, enough to circle the world twice. Emissions from GM's products were more than double those from AEP's power plants. Emissions from Toyota's products, ranked fourth among automakers, exceeded those from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's third largest electric utility.
"Fixing the global warming problem without making cars more efficient is like trying to fix a leaky roof without a hammer," said Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp. "The leading automakers must accept responsibility for becoming part of the solution."
"Cutting greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. automobiles will be critical to any strategy for slowing global warming," said John DeCicco, author of the report and senior fellow at Environmental Defense. "To address global warming, we'll need a clear picture of what sources are contributing to the problem. This report details, by automaker and vehicle type, the greenhouse gas contributions from America's auto sector, for the first time."
Surprisingly, given the popularity of SUVs, small cars (compacts and subcompacts) still accounted for the greatest portion of carbon emitted as of 2004 - a testament to how long today-s vehicles remain on the road. SUVs will soon be the main source of CO2 emissions from U.S. autos, having overtaken small cars in market share in 2002.
U.S. cars and light trucks are responsible for 45 percent of the CO2 emitted by automobiles around the world, even though America's vehicles represent just 30 percent of the nearly 700 million cars in use worldwide. The American share of CO2 emissions is disproportionately higher because American vehicles are driven more each year and on average burn more fuel than cars in other countries.
The report examines the three factors behind greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles: amount of driving, fuel economy, and the carbon content of motor fuel. U.S. cars and light trucks were driven a staggering 2.6 trillion miles in 2004, equal to driving back and forth to Pluto more than 470 times. U.S. autos also had an average fuel economy of 19.6 miles per gallon; gasoline contains 5.3 pounds of carbon, nearly all of which ends up in the atmosphere when burned.
"Reducing global warming on the road is a shared responsibility," said DeCicco. "By underscoring the magnitude of emissions from America's automobiles, this report shows that all actors - automakers, fuel providers, consumers, and various levels of government - can help solve the problem by addressing those aspects of CO2 emissions they can control."
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