A Mountain of an Impact - The Carbon Footprint of American Roads

If GM had had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 MPG
— Bill Gates

Cars a large part of our lives

The average family has two.  And they will spend 852 hours inside them each year. 23% of that time will be spent idling.  Each of our families will spend, on average, nearly $18,000 a year for all of the vehicle expenses combined - over $400 for fuel for that idling alone.

The 253 Million cars on American roads will travel 3 trillion miles this year.  And they will produce 1.2 billion metric tons of co2, or if you like even bigger numbers: 2.64 trillion pounds.  That volume of co2 requires 986 million acres of forest to remove from the atmosphere.

The 253 million cars on our roads will travel 3 trillion miles annually

That’s 130% of all that exist in the USA.  Worse yet, our forests are busy working on the rest of the 6.5 billion metric tons of CO2 the US emits every year.  Meaning, of course, that the emissions produced in our country is multiples of the amount of carbon sequestration capable within our geographic bounds.

So what happens with the 1.2 billion metric tons of CO2 exhaust?  It stays in the atmosphere, impacting our climate for a century.   It is a volume of co2 equal to 4.4 Mt. Rainiers that gets added to our earth’s atmosphere every year.

I have a confession, though:  I love my car.  I always have.  They afford us a flexibility of movement that is the back bone of much of our contemporary world.  This is not just for the suburbanite or rural folks, either.  If expenditures per family on cars is a reasonable indicator, urbanites are only 10% less auto-centric than others.  We benefit from our cars immensely.  We have limited control, however, over their efficiency and impact (aside, of course, from car pooling and driving as little as possible).

Though we are not fully in control of the impacts of all of the things we benefit from in our lives, we are still responsible as individuals for those impacts.   So, yes, please drive less - share rides - and consider offsetting your personal impact!

Like many things in our modern life, we take the luxury of our cars for granted.  In this video we point out how that attitude makes us less able to enjoy our lives and keeps us from developing an awareness of what the real impact of our actions and luxuries are on our planet.  Watch and learn a little about the order of magnitude car usage has on our atmosphere.

photo credit: Sven Lohmeyer