Going to work, school, the park, out to dinner or visiting family during the holidays has one thing in common – the process of getting there. Transportation is one of the largest economic and pollution-heavy sectors in the global economy. As such, it’s important to think about transportation as an extension of our own carbon footprint.
In a report released by the Environmental Protection Agency, motor vehicles used in the United States create 75 percent of carbon monoxide pollution in the country. With 30 percent of the world's automobiles, the U.S. contributes around half of the world's emissions generated by on-road vehicles. (https://auto.howstuffworks.com/air-pollution-from-cars.htm).
These statistics help put into perspective how important it is to change the way we think about and use transportation, with an eye on greener alternatives that invest in our populations and the Earth’s future.
As popular as tooling around in a car is in the U.S. and other countries around the world, affordable air travel has an ever-growing worldwide appeal that is creating a disproportionate impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, a round-trip flight between New York and California generates about 20 percent of greenhouse gasses a car can emit in a single year. Fuel efficiency has increased by more than 125 percent since 1978, eliminating some 4.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of taking about 25 million cars off the road every year.
Today, as plane travel becomes more efficient – more people travel by plane than ever before – the demand offsets the improvements in emissions.
The rise in air travel has created an urgent need for the airline industry to keep up with the demand and increase its role in the development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels that lead to new technologies to improve fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-10/airline-pollution-is-soaring-and-nobody-knows-how-to-fix-it.
The industry aspires to achieve a 50 percent net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 with continued advances. (http://airlines.org/blog/flying-towards-a-greener-future/).
In 2016, Alaska Airlines flew a modified Boeing 737 from Seattle to San Francisco and on to Washington Reagan using an alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) made from sustainable U.S. corn. Other major domestic airlines, such as American and United, along with a cadre of international carriers, have followed suit and are pursuing ever-greener technologies and fuels.
While it’s easy to get caught up in what is going wrong with transportation and efficiency, there are some noteworthy pioneering projects zeroing in on the zero-emission green movement.
Unless you walk to Niagara Falls, you more than likely will create a carbon footprint using a faster mode of transportation – such as a car or plane – to get there. Well, in a few months you can leave your guilt behind in the hotel room. One of the world’s most thrilling tourist attractions is going electric.
The Maid of the Mist, a passenger boat that braves the waters beneath the American and Canadian Horseshoe falls is navigating to the green side. Pulling away from the pier will be two new electric zero-emission boats that will embark more than 1.5 million passengers every year. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/maid-of-the-mist-leads-the-way-with-first-all-electric-vessels-built-in-the-united-states-300843532.html
The green technology perfectly mirrors the power harnessed by Niagara Falls – one of the world’s largest source of clean hydroelectric power. The advancements will bring a sustainable and reliable operation, leaving Niagara Falls less disturbed by boat exhaust fumes or engine noise.
On top of being an environmentally friendly tourist attraction, the boats highlight the importance of sustaining our natural land and recreation areas to be enjoyed by the ecosystems that live in them, and the generations to come.
If technology continues to improve on the fronts of sustainability and greener initiatives, there are few reasons why governments and transportation sector would fail to mirror technological leaps toward a zero-emission standard.