According to the EPA, motor vehicles are responsible for nearly half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the United States and account for 75% of carbon monoxide emissions. Every year in the U.S., passenger vehicles burn 121 billion gallons of gasoline and emit more than 3 trillion pounds of carbon pollution into the air. These emissions are a result of both vehicle tailpipes and the emissions caused from extracting, refining, and transporting the oil to our vehicles.
In addition, the total vehicle miles people travel in the United States increased 178% between 1970 and 2005 and continues to increase at a rate of 2-3% each year. The motor vehicle, above all else, represents our country’s addiction to oil. Our addiction to oil has resulted in many catastrophes such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Visit the Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicle Blog for more information on the impact oil and gasoline vehicles have on our environment.
Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), which require no gasoline and have no tailpipe emissions, provide one critical way to reduce our dependence on oil, significantly decrease air pollution, create American jobs, and improve national security.
There have been a number of studies comparing emissions of gasoline vehicles to electric vehicles and all note that the charging of an electric vehicle results in significantly less carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution than the CO2 pollution from nearly all of the conventional vehicles on the road today. For regions that have access to cleaner and more renewable sources of power, emissions are more than 70% lower for PEVs. As we begin to shift further away from coal plants, the emissions from PEV charging will continue to decrease (Sierra Club, 2015).
In June 2015, the G7 leading industrial nations agreed to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century. Many hope that this will mark the end of our dependence on the fossil fuel industry and will result in the rejection of investments of projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline and ending coal, oil and gas development on public lands. It remains to be seen how quickly government policies will be enacted but one thing is clear: The US federal government has spent billions of dollars on PEV programs over recent years, including the provision of tax credits for purchases of PEVs, grants to PEV battery manufacturers, and charging infrastructure. Thanks to government incentives coupled with decreasing prices as PEV technology becomes more widespread, and the much cheaper price of electricity versus gasoline, the coast of owning and operating a PEV is now lower than that of the average gasoline-powered vehicle.
PEVs are here to stay and represent one clear, significant way we can each reduce our own carbon footprint and contribute to a better future for the coming generations.