CitizenMetz

Carbon Consciousness & Action

Archive for the tag “Gasoline”

Are You Secretly Invested in Oil?

resized cars platform dollarsConscientious citizens the world over are disgusted by the oil industry, hating the environmental destruction, greed, corruption, violence, and political repression it spawns. They refuse to purchase shares of oil companies because they do not want to invest in a destructive industry.  Many support the growing movement which lobbies governments, foundations, and other large shareholders to divest their oil company holdings.

Yet, most such citizens, along with 99% of car owners, have a substantial, long-term investment in the oil industry parked in their driveway.   Each gasoline or diesel-powered car represents a consistent, long-term source of cash flow for the industry.   Fueling that car (assuming the U.S. national averages of 25 miles per gallon and 15,000 miles driven per year) requires about 600 gallons a year or 9000 gallons over the average 15 year life of the car.  Those 9000 gallons translate into about $18,000 in cash flow to the oil industry and about 225,000 pounds of CO2 released into the air.

The projected cash flows from gas-powered cars underpin oil companies’ exploration and drilling.  Without the steady, long-term cash flows provided by consumption of gasoline, the enormously capital-intensive oil exploration and drilling projects would become financially untenable and grind to a halt.   The petroleum reserves of oil companies, especially in unspoiled and difficult to access areas, would become worthless and go untapped.  For the oil companies, your gasoline-powered car is money in the bank.

People who buy new gasoline cars not only prop up the income projections of oil companies, they send a message to car manufacturers that electric cars aren’t wanted.  They send a message to governments that building a charging infrastructure can be further delayed, and to oil companies that it will be business as usual for a long time to come.   They perpetuate an unhealthy and unsustainable status quo.

Until recently, conscientious citizens could fairly claim, “What alternative do we have?  We need to get around just like everyone else.”  That excuse is losing force.  Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles now offer excellent alternatives to gas vehicles.  Many fully-electric cars, including the new Nissan Leaf and Tesla, offer more than 100 miles of range.  The Chevy Bolt, which will come onto the market in late 2016, will offer 200 miles of all-electric range and the space of a Toyota Corolla, at a cost of about $35,000   For those needing more range than a fully-electric car can offer, the plug-in BMW i3 with range extender provides 80 miles of electric range (sufficient for 95%+ of most vehicle trips), backed up by a small gasoline-powered engine for longer trips.   The operating cost of electric cars is less than for gasoline cars.  Even at today’s low gas prices, an electric car in the U.S. costs about $0.03 per mile in energy cost, compared to about $.10 per mile for a gas car.  In most of Europe, the cost is about € 0.03 per km, compared to about € 0.10 per km for gas cars.

The environmental benefits of electric cars are enormous.    Most electric cars are three times as efficient as gas-powered cars per unit of energy.  Where electricity is predominantly generated from carbon-free sources, such as in France, Spain or Washington State, the electric car results in less than 10% of the carbon emissions caused by a petroleum-powered vehicle.  A small 3kW rooftop solar system (costing less than $10,000) provides sufficient energy to power an electric car for 30+ years.

The continued use of gasoline-powered cars is a major hindrance to the effort to meet the Paris climate goals of limiting global warming to 2 degrees.  Vehicle emissions constitute about 30% of total CO2 emissions in the U.S. and many other industrialized countries.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis wrote:

A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers. ‘Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act.’ Today, in a word, ‘the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.” (Laudato Si, Para. 206)

Pope Francis is right.  We need to use our buying power to express our values and our morals.  For conscientious people, that means disinvesting in the oil industry and buying electric cars or other non-petroleum transportation options instead.  If we are conscientious with our money, business will follow us to a cleaner, lower-carbon future.

 

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Gasoline and Cancer: New Research Confirms Links

woman in mask pumping gasRecent scientific studies confirm links between exposure to air pollution from gasoline and diesel with cancer and other diseases.

It has long been known that some of the ingredients within gasoline cause cancer.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a program of the World Health Organization, classifies benzene, a principal ingredient of gasoline, and 1,3 butadiene, a component of gasoline exhaust, as Group 1 carcinogens (chemicals which cause cancer in humans).

Now, new research in peer-reviewed scientific journals from around the world is finding that people exposed to high levels of vehicle exhaust or to gasoline vapors are at significantly higher risk of getting cancer.

A 2015 study shows elevated risk of eye cancer for children living closer to busy roads.   A 2014 study from Texas shows that children living in census tracts with high levels of vehicle pollution were more than 50% more likely to have cancers of the brain and central nervous system.  The Texas study follows 2013 epidemiological research from UCLA showing that children born on streets with higher levels of traffic and vehicle exhaust have substantially increased risk of leukemia and cancers of the testicles, ovaries, and eyes.  These findings correlate closely with a study from Italy showing significantly elevated leukemia risk for children exposed to benzene from vehicle exhaust.

People living near or working in gas stations also have cause for concern. A 2012 study from Thailand demonstrated substantially higher cancer rates for those living near gas stations.  A 2014 study of gas station attendants in Brazil showed much higher frequency of chromosomal abnormalities, a frequent precursor.   A 2011 study from Spain demonstrated elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene as far as 100 meters from gas stations.

Many other health risks are associated with vehicle exhaust, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease.  One study found that people living near polluted roadways were twice as likely to die from a heart attack as those living in cleaner areas.

Gasoline is a cancer-causing agent whose use creates serious health risks to all people, and particularly children, who are exposed to vehicle exhaust or to gasoline vapors.   People who live or work in areas with high levels of vehicle exhaust are at especially high risk, as are those who regularly fill their vehicles with gasoline.

Eliminating the widespread use of gasoline and diesel will result in significant public health benefits.

Do Gasoline Consumers Deserve a Free Pass?

While public pressure mounts on universities and pension funds to divest from oil companies because of their role in causing global warming, consumers that buy gas from the oil companies are getting a free pass.   As long as a person isn’t driving a large SUV or Hummer, his or her gasoline usage is considered beyond reproach.  No moral stigma is attached to filling the gas tank up on a weekly basis, even though those 15 gallons of gas are releasing about 300 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.

There are four main reasons why personal gas consumption is not negatively judged—the subtle nature of carbon pollution, the necessity of a car for modern life, the ubiquity and scale of the problem, and the fact that most of us are afraid of being branded as hypocrites with respect to our own carbon usage. Read more…

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