This year offered several events that shone a spotlight directly on the important and urgent issue of climate change, but the question remains, “Was it enough to bring about meaningful efforts to reduce climate change?”
June of 2012 presented the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which disappointed many as international representatives hemmed and hawed instead of establishing true endeavors to tackle global warming. Meanwhile the continental United States embarked on summer heat waves that were some of the hottest in its history.
This year also saw drought cover more than half the country; farmers suffered as their crops and animals died.
Then October of 2012 brought superstorm Sandy, this year’s biggest example of extreme weather and a deadly harbinger of the devastating effects of climate change. Can we continue to sit idly by in the face of all these signs that global warming is making broad changes to our planet? Should we leave these environmental problems for our children to face as we continue down an unsustainable path?
The close of the year is a time to reflect on the previous events of the year and make resolutions for the coming year. Let’s pledge to make 2013 the year where we confront climate change in every possible way. We can all embark on energy efficiency efforts; reducing what we can and lowering our carbon footprints. Every bit helps. Then it is a powerful combination to offset the rest of our carbon emissions. It would be a genuine shame to let the lessons of this past year slip from our consciousness while there is still time and so much that can and should be done to address climate change.
In what is easily the best environmental action in a generation, this week, the Obama Administration announced new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and light trucks (think minivans and sport utility vehicles). By 2025, these vehicles will be required to average 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates CAFE standards and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measures vehicle fuel efficiency. An agreement in support of acceptable standards was made between the government, automakers and their unions, and environmental organizations.
The stage for these historic fuel economy standards was set by an energy law enacted in 2007 under President George W. Bush. Additionally, the 2009 federal bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler were tied to better fuel efficiency.
Fuel-efficient cars and trucks were the U.S. auto industry’s saving grace. It makes good sense on multiple levels to continue these efforts. For one, 570,000 new jobs can be created by 2030. Not to mention saving consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reducing U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. This also translates to strengthening national security by lessening the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
What about fighting man-made global warming? The new standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025. This reduces emissions by 6 billion metric tons, which is more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the United States in 2010. We thank President Obama for his leadership on combating climate change, pollution prevention and national security.
Starting in 2017, the standards will be phased in over the course of eight years. New fuel-saving technology is projected to increase the cost of new car or light truck by $3,000 on average. This means consumers will pay a little more when they buy the vehicle, about $50 more a month over a five-year loan, but they’ll more than make up for it at the pump with expected gas savings per vehicle between $7,000 - $8,000. And that is good for the environment and our wallets.
Undeniably, the vehicle fuel-efficiency standards represent an unbeatable combination of protecting the environment and strengthening the economy. They’re also the nation's single largest effort to combat climate-altering greenhouse gases, but we can’t stop building our carbon-reduction portfolios now. Wonderful news like this should push us to continuing to find more ways to reduce our carbon footprint, as individuals and a nation. Now let’s go invest in some renewable energy projects!
Gas prices are on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, gasoline prices are up 11%, increasing from $3.29 in mid-December 2011 to $3.65 by mid-February 2012. Assuming you’re an average driver who gets fuel economy of 22.5 mpg, pays a fuel cost of $3.65/gallon, and travels 15,000 miles annually, that translates into a $20 increase each month to fuel your vehicle.
The best way to save gas money and reduce your carbon footprint is to stop driving. However, if you cannot walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation to get you where you need to go, heed some of these driving and maintenance tips. They boost your fuel economy and make the most of your monthly gasoline budget:
Drive more efficiently:
- Avoid aggressive driving which includes speeding, rapid acceleration, and braking. When you don’t drive sensibly you can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Plus if you drive sensibly you may avoid an accident and thereby save on more than just gas.
- Observe the Speed Limit. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas.
- Remove Excess Weight. If it is a heavy and unnecessary, take it out of your car; especially if you drive a smaller car. Did you know an additional 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent?
- Avoid Excessive Idling. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner (AC) use. It only takes a few seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle.
- Use Cruise Control. Maintaining a constant speed can help you save gas.
- Use Overdrive Gears. Overdrive gearing reduces your car's engine speed which saves gas and reduces engine wear.