The Greenest Choice
In, What’s the Greenest Way to Go?, Earth Island Journal asks readers to choose the greenest auto fuel:
On one issue, at least, American environmentalists are mostly in agreement: It would be wonderful to have walkable, bikable, mass transit-oriented towns and cities in which you wouldn’t need to have a car. But such a vision remains a work in progress. For most families in the United States, a personal automobile is a necessity. So, if you have to buy a car, what’s the greenest way to go? Journalist and author Jim Motavalli says hybrid vehicles and the new generation of electric cars are the most ecological option. Don Scott of the National Biodiesel Board argues that the most environmentally smart fuel is biodiesel made from recycled waste and other biomass.
I like the idea of 100% biodiesel (B100) but with minor exceptions, diesel car manufacturers only warranty the use of B2 or B5 in their engines. B5 is only 5% biodiesel, so B5 exhaust should be 95% as dirty as ordinary petrodiesel. What good is that?
Similarly I like the idea of electric vehicles, but based on these Do the Math articles, Battery Performance Deficit Disorder, and Death of a Battery, I am nervous about the lifespan of the battery packs that represent almost half the cost of an EV. Hybrids seem to be a safer choice, and I agree with Motavelli that the Volt makes a lot of sense – if one can afford it.
I agree with Don Scott that we need a diversity of solutions to replace fossil fuel cars, but what makes even more sense to me is to avoid driving as much as possible. One can rent cars, share cars, ride public transit, ride bicycles, just walk or all of the above. Sure, some of those strategies are less convenient than having a personal auto sitting in the driveway, but in the long run, not relying on a car is good for your health and easier on your bank account.