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Shift Your Energy From Driving to Walking

The automobile was a revolutionary invention and has become a dominant force in the daily transportation of US communities. As of 2002, the USDOT predicts that 87% of all regular trips made take place in a personal automobile; upwards of 91% of people use a car to commute to work. These trips add up- on average, Americans drive 11 billion miles every day, or almost 40 miles per person per day.  With almost all Americans choosing to drive, instead of using alternative or active transportation, we must begin to face the reality of the impact of our car-driven lifestyle.

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, transportation has become one of the most demanding sectors in America in regards of energy, well outpacing the individual energy consumption of the commercial, residential, and industrial sectors. The energy requirements of each sector dictate this, because the costs (not solely an economic measure, but more of an environmental measure) of producing electrical energy is the main source of CO2 emissions for commercial, residential, and industrial sectors. The transportation sector though, is typically powered by hydrocarbon fuel, and relies less on the electrical energy from local grids.

The annual CO2 emissions of the transportation sector have continued to rise steadily, releasing 1400 million metric tons (MMT) of CO2 in 1980, 1587 MMT of CO2 in 1990, 1872 MMT in 2000, and peaking at almost 2021 MMT of CO2 in 2007.

In 2017 alone, the transportation sector produced 1902 MMT of CO2, of which, petroleum combusted as fuel accounted for 98% of all CO2 emissions made by the transportation sector. Over half (1098 MMT; 58%) of this CO2 released in 2017 came from the use of gasoline as a fuel for motor vehicles.

In 2017, 5142 MMT of CO2 were released across all sectors; 45% of all CO2 released that year came from petroleum, with over 1 in every 5 metric tons of CO2 released specifically coming from the combustion of motor vehicle fuels.

With such a large share of CO2 emissions stemming from the use of automobile fuels, perhaps the most timely and effective way to immediately reduce excess CO2 emissions is to not try to burn cleaner fuels, such as biofuels, but rather to burn less fuels overall.

Making conscious decisions about how and why we travel, such as choosing to walk or bike, can help; the easiest way to help cut down on the number of short trips that are taken by car. The EPA suggests that if every driver walked for only half of all trips taken that are a mile or less, we could save approximately 5 billion miles of vehicle miles traveled, and stop approximately 2 MMT of CO2 released into the atmosphere, each year. The next time you have just a short trip to take, remember that walking could be the first step towards a greener tomorrow.