Monday, May 5, 2014

Eco-Friendly Transportation Struggles to Transform Gas-Guzzling Highways



By Anthony Vigna

American Highway    (photo: Jan Barry)
The majority of people in the world depend on cars for transportation.  In 2011, The Huffington Post reported that over 1 billion people worldwide own a car, making public transportation appear to be obsolete.

Unfortunately, such a figure means that people are creating a bigger carbon footprint on the environment than ever before while solutions, like eco-friendly cars, continue to fail to catch mainstream appeal. After all of these years, solutions for the current transportation model continue to struggle to gain momentum, and it’s creating a huge problem for everyone.

How Cars Are Destroying the Environment

Jack Daly, 53-year-old World Sustainability Professor at Ramapo College, said that the continued use of cars for transportation is having a huge negative effect on the environment.

“I think cars are probably the most selfish invention in the modern world,” he said. “The automobile is a big boost for GDP because it’s a hard, durable, expensive product, but in terms of sustainability it’s a joke.”

Daly said that cars are dangerous because they burn fossil fuels. He explained that they are very dirty and cause many problems because they are non-renewable.

“They talk about clean coal in the coal industry, [but] it’s an oxymoron,” he said. “Coal is one of the filthiest things you could burn. Next would be gasoline, petroleum products, and natural gas.”

Daly said that he would love to see the United States move away from a car culture and move toward one that embraces eco-friendly public transportation. He said he came across transportation systems like this when he lived at Prague in the Czech Republic and loved everything about them.

“They have the most beautiful transportation system you’ve ever seen: trolley cars, busses, and a subway system that will take you anywhere very, very quickly and get you close to your home,” he said. “We had the same thing here in New York City, and the first thing that General Motors and Ford Motor Company did when they were getting the automobile was purchase those systems and tear them out of the ground.”

Daly said that the automobile industry would fight to the death to prevent new technology from catching on, which is why new forms of transportation have not taken the place of cars.

“We have the technology now to be traveling in maglev trains through vacuum tubes at 4,000 miles an hour,” he said. “You could go from New York to China in two hours. We have the technology, it’s available to us now.”

Daly said that even though he dislikes the automobile industry, he still must use a car in order to get to the college. He explained that it takes two hours for public transportation to take him to Ramapo College, while a car would get him there in 20 minutes at a cheaper price.

“I have to earn a living. I have to do a lot of things that I don’t like to do,” he said. “Public transportation, if I was doing it in protest, would not be a great alternative.”

Ramapo Students Take Interest in Eco-Friendly Cars

Many Ramapo students, like 21-year-old business major Paul Victory, said that they have an interest in eco-friendly cars. However, Victory said that a lot of students like him do not own these kinds of cars because they can’t afford them.

“Right now, price would be too much of a factor,” he said. “I would like to [buy one] though.”

Victory said that he’d like to buy an eco-friendly car in the future because it’s healthier for the environment. He also said that spending less money on gas would be a huge incentive for him to switch over.

“I drive a Jeep and the gas is too expensive for me. I get 12 miles to the gallon,” he said. “I’d love an electric one; it would save me so much money.”

Like Daly, Victory also thinks that the United States should focus more on public transportation to benefit the environment. One area that particularly interested him was the high-speed rail, which is currently used in places like China, France, and Germany.

“They use that to travel long distances instead of using these long, coal burning trains that are just horrible for the environment,” he said. “That’s definitely how we should go eventually.”

Victory said that better, renewable energy sources could be used in various forms of transportation, but our overreliance on fossil fuels has kept things the way they are.

“We heavily rely on it and that’s why automobile companies don’t want to change it,” he said. “They make too much money on it.”

Jonathan Mallon, 24-year-old communications major, is another student that expressed interest in owning an eco-friendly car, but he has not been able to afford one.

“I have a 2003 Honda Civic that I bought from my dad. I like it since it’s relatively small enough and energy efficient.” he said. “But, if I had the finances and I was able to switch a car to something more energy efficient or something better, I would definitely do that.”

Even though Mallon is interested in a car that is generally better for the environment, he would still pick an efficient gas car over a hybrid if it were cheaper in price.

“If I can get maybe something that’s still a gas car but a little more energy efficient than my car at a cheaper price, then unfortunately, while it would still would use a little more gas, I would get that,” he said. “If I found a used hybrid that was cheap, or a good deal on it if they had a sale of some sort, then it would be a good consideration.”

Mallon said he also finds cars that don’t run on gas intriguing, but he ultimately finds them impractical due to the lack of abundant alternative energy.

“I think it all has to do with the availability of fuel for the car, whether it’d be like electricity, gas, hydrogen, or even the availability of energy from the sun,” he said. “For example, if electric cars were still popular or were more popular and there were charging stages, I would definitely consider that.”

Mallon said eco-friendly cars have not caught on due to poor marketing. He explained that he was educated about this angle when he watched a documentary called Who Killed the Electric Car.

“According to the documentary, not a lot of consumers saw it available so they didn’t know it was an option,” he said. “If the car companies really wanted to sell a product, they would. They would invest a lot more into advertising.”

For more information:
www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/08/23/car-population_n_934291.html


Anthony Vigna is a journalism student at Ramapo College of New Jersey with a major in communication arts and a minor in information technology. He has a strong interest in writing about technology and also enjoys writing opinion pieces that promote world sustainability.

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