Happy Earth Day! April is the month for sustainability. Not only are we celebrating the Earth today, but Air Quality Awareness Week is just around the corner on May 3-7! This week on the Blog, we’re rounding up a few facts and statistics about emissions, air quality, and the environment.
1. Transportation is the top source of greenhouse gas emissions
There’s no getting around it: transportation pollutes. According to the EPA, transportation contributed 29% of all US emissions in 2019. That’s an increase from 28.2% in just 2018. And while pandemic lockdowns did reduce travel in 2020, those changes are only temporary. Most of these transportation emissions come from burning fossil fuels in the internal combustion engines (ICE) of gasoline and diesel vehicles. This air pollution includes “particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)” and air toxins such as “benzene, formaldehyde, and diesel particulate matter.” Electric vehicles are an essential alternative to these polluting vehicles.
2. Studies show that air pollution hurts school students
Two studies released in 2019 linked air pollution to student behavior and test scores. One study evaluated schools where test scores dropped the year after a factory was built within two miles of the campus. Evidence also suggested that a decrease in attendance and an increase in suspensions could also be linked to the new factory. Another study followed students who moved up from elementary to middle school or middle to high school (without changing residence). This study linked lower test scores and higher behavior incidents to moving to a school that was downwind of a major highway. Why do these studies matter? Because clean air helps the next generation grow and prosper. Reducing vehicle emissions creates a better community for children and adults.
3. Electric vehicles are better for the environment
Electric vehicles are zero emissions vehicles, and the benefits don’t just stop there. Some critics claim that because EVs run on the local grid, they are just as dirty as gas cars. That is not so. This question of “Well-to-Wheel Emissions” includes not just direct emissions from the vehicle, but also the “fuel production, processing, [and] distribution” at the power plant. Even in states that generate electricity from coal or natural gas, the well-to-wheel emissions of an EV are still far less than those of an internal combustion car. And as utilities diversify their energy portfolios and innovate in technology, the energy grid is becoming even cleaner.
In addition to well-to-wheel emissions, EVs are also more sustainable than gas cars because they use less raw materials. A recent study considered the raw minerals used in EV batteries versus the thousands of barrels of oil used by ICE cars. The difference? Recyclability. New advancements in technology allow for more battery recycling and higher efficiency in battery storage. EVs may use raw materials, but these materials are less costly.
This Earth Day, we’re dreaming of the zero-emissions future with clean air and environmental stewardship.
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