If you want to feel good about yourself, ditch your gas-guzzler and switch to a hybrid car. Youll get a lift at the pumps, because switching from a 25 mpg sedan to a 50-mpg hybrid will save you $660 in fuel in just the first year; over five years, the total savings is $3,300.
Whats more, youll emit far less global warming gas. That 25-mpg sedan produces 11,640 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. The 50-mpg hybrid cuts that in half. And keep in mind that most of todays full-sized SUVs are not even close to achieving 25 mpg. The 2008 Ford Expedition, for instance, gets just 12 mpg around town and 18 on the highway. The CO2 count is even worse if your vehicle is a diesel.
The Prius earns its halo, but is it enough?
Now, this is all very simple: buy a hybrid and help save the planet! Its true as far as it goes, but heres a chilling statistic. As you might know, California passed legislation to cut CO2 emissions in new cars by 25 percent beginning in 2009 (SUVs will be cut by 18 percent). So far, the Bush administration is blocking Californias law, but lets imagine a better world than ours and assume that the law is in place and all the vehicles on the road in the state met the ambitious standard.
OK, now imagine a single medium-sized coal plant going online somewhere in the world, with little fanfare. The CO2 from that one plant, operating just eight months a year, would negate Californias entire effort. President Bushs energy plan calls for a rapid ramp-up of new coal plants, and China is putting one of these climate busters in operation every week!
Facts like these, compiled by the 2030 Research Center, really put things in perspective. If every household in the U.S. changed an incandescent bulb to an energy-saving compact fluorescent, two coal plants would cancel out all their work. And if Wal-Mart achieves its goal of a 20 percent energy reduction in its existing stores over seven years, you guessed it, a single coal plant will cancel out their achievement in just one month of smokestack pollution.
Coal plants are the real climate culprit.
Lets check the stats: More than half of U.S. electricity is produced by coal plants, and power plants are the single biggest source of global warming emissions, adding up to a third of the U.S. total.
The bottom line here is that switching to a hybrid car is a great idea, and so is buying compact fluorescent bulbs. But individual halo actions can only take us so far when the worlds overall climate policy is on a collision course with reality.
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