The heavy cost of cars

Posted: 20 February 2003

Two recent reports have highlighted trends in car use and pollution in Europe and the United States. The first is from Z magazine.

In the United States, during the period from 1950 to 1970, the automobile population grew four times faster than the human population. Today, there are around 200 million cars in America.

Contrary to all those car commercials in which you see the automobile being marketed as it cruises along all alone on an open road, Americans spend 8 billion hours per year stuck in traffic.

During the twentieth century, 250 million Americans were maimed or injured in automobile accidents. The leading cause of death for children aged 5 to 14 in New York City is pedestrian automobile accidents. Every day in the United States, an average of 121 people are killed in car accidents.

Automobiles, Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), trucks, and other fossil field-burning vehicles kill a million wild animals per week.

During the last century, an area equal to all the arable land in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania was paved in the United States, which requires maintenance costing over $200 million a day. The surreptitious cost of the car culture, including the military and other costs of ensuring supplies from the Middle East and elsewhere is estimated to be nearly $464 billion a year, the report claims. Automobiles emit one-quarter of US greenhouse gases. The United States. spends $60 billion per year on foreign oil.... eight million barrels of oil per day is combusted in US cars (that's 450 gallons per person per year). Cars create seven billion pounds of un-recycled scrap and waste annually.

Approximately one billion discarded tyres litter the paved landscape: every tyre loses one pound of rubber per year, spewing minute grains of rubber into the stratosphere and then back down to find a new home in the water supply and human lungs.

During the 40 days of the Gulf War, 146 Americans died keeping the world safe for petroleum while at home, 4900 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents.

A second report, from the European Commission, said that average CO2 emissions from new passenger cars in the EU have dropped by about 10 per cent since 1995. By contrast, average vehicle emissions, including the popular SUVs, in the United States have been rising.

Commenting on the EUs third annual report on the effectiveness of its strategy to reduce C02 emissions from cars, Environmental Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "Our agreements with the car manufacturers are showing results. They make an important contribution to our overall efforts to combat climate change."

The report shows that in the last year, all car manufacturing associations reduced the average specific CO2 emissions of their cars sold on the EU market: ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association ) by about 2.5 per cent, JAMA (Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association ) by about 2.2 per cent and KAMA (Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association ) by about 2.6 per cent. The fuel efficiency improvements for diesel passenger cars are significantly better than those for gasoline vehicles.

Sources: They Paved Paradise by Mickey Z., Z Magazine, January 22, 2003, GBNews and The Gallon Newsletter.