The automobile has become a very important part of today’s society. It is a necessity to own or to have access to a car in order to keep up with all of the competition of the business world, and also one’s social demands. Most people would not be able to travel around a country or the world without this incredible machine, for it provides freedom and mobility, even for people who do not own a car. Unfortunately, the car has a very destructive nature. Automobiles make a major contribution to air and noise pollution, depletion of fossil fuels, and to the abnormalities in children and adults due to lead poisoning. In order to stop this devastation, the use of gas powered automobiles must be limited by replacing them with alternative modes of transportation, or by finding a way to ease them out of utilization.
There are many reasons why the number of privately owned gasoline powered cars on the road should be limited. First of all, and most importantly, automobiles are harmful to our environment. Automobiles run on gasoline, which is a mixture derived from petroleum. Gasoline contains hundreds of different hydrocarbons, or compounds containing the chemical elements carbon and hydrogen(Gasoline). When the gas is burned in the engine of the car, several byproducts result. These exhausts include hydrocarbons and oxides of three elements: Carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur(Emissions).
Tiny amounts of poisonous trace elements such as lead, cadmium, and nickel also are present. Everything contained in the exhaust affects the environment intensely. Auto engine exhaust contributes about 50% of today’s atmospheric pollution, and in highly populated and industrialized cities, air pollution consists of up to 80% car exhaust. Because of all of the gasoline powered cars on the road, the earth’s outermost protective shell, the ozone layer, is being destroyed. The ozone layer guards against, among other things, global warming and skin cancer(Fisher 14).
If it is annihilated, the whole planet, including the human race, will be erased along with it. This is one reason gasoline powered automobiles should be limited. The automobile also contributes to noise pollution. Cities around the world are constantly packed with cars, and, as a result, there are traffic jams. Patience, as a virtue, is not always bestowed on everyone, and, therefore, people start honking their horns and yelling at others.
This produces a polyphonic sound that is not very pleasing to anyone, especially those in the traffic jam who have already had a stressful day at work. Obviously, this is not the fault of the automobile itself, but the fault of the owners. If there were a limit on the number of cars allowed on such public roads as Fifth Avenue or the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City, noise pollution, and air pollution, for that matter, would not be a major factor of environmental degradation. Another reason privately owned gasoline powered vehicles should be limited is the depletion of the fossil fuel supply. People all over the world need petroleum, a fossil fuel, to fill their cars in order to get around.
However, petroleum, like many other natural resources on this earth, is in short supply. The continued use of petroleum at the current rate will cause the limited supply to dwindle. Our society does not seem to realize this point, though, and, as a result, petroleum is wasted in many ways while en route to an automobile’s gas tank. Oil companies transport petroleum all over the world by many means.
Over the years, some methods have proved to be dangerous, such as the truck, train, tanker, or boat. A clear example of this danger occurred when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in March of 1989(Nadis 16). The Valdez was carrying 11 million gallons of oil, and a drunk captain, across the Prince William Sound at the time of the disaster. All 11 million gallons poured out, thereafter seen only upon the thousands of species of animals that this accident destroyed.
A total ecological system was wiped out from a shipment of oil meant for automobiles. Oil is not only lost in transport, though. Storage tanks can waste quite a lot of petroleum without anyone knowing about it, but, at the same time, polluting the environment. Seventeen million gallons of oil have leaked from a storage tank of a service station in Brooklyn, New York(Nadis 17).
A similar situation has occurred in El Segundo, California, but on a much grander scale. A two hundred million gallon pool lies underneath a service station there, and twenty eight million gallons of that has oozed closer to the San Francisco Bay, endangering water supplies(17). Among the nearly six million underground oil tanks that exist in this country, five hundred thousand are believed to be leaking at the moment, wasting millions of gallons of petroleum that could be used to heat houses and fuel industries(17). However, this natural resource sits under gas stations, waiting to be pumped into a car. Instead of oil helping humanity, the loss of oil hurts it. A third reason privately owned gasoline powered vehicles should be limited is because they are contributing to an enormous source of lead in the air, which is dangerous to the body.
When gasoline is burned in the engine of an automobile, it can release many things, dependent upon what type of gasoline it is. There are two main types of gasoline, leaded and unleaded. The leaded contains lead, while the unleaded does not contain as much. Fortunately, most cars today require gasoline of the unleaded type.
However, some old cars still in use need leaded fuel(52). This poses a threat to every person in the world, for every one of us could die of lead poisoning. Lead was first added to gasoline in the 1920’s to improve car mileage and prevent engine knock, or an explosion that occurs when the gas is compressed in the engine(Applebee 2). Lead levels in human blood rose with the proliferation of cars and trucks on the highway(2). It has since been proved that auto emissions are the single largest source of lead in our environment, and that high levels of lead in young children can cause brain damage, mental retardation, kidney disorders, and interfere with the processing of Vitamin D(Applebee 2; Gurman 2). Because of the preponderance of unleaded fuel on the market, the amount of lead in the air has decreased.
But does this mean that the chance of lead poisoning from car exhaust has decreased dramatically? Not at all. Over twenty percent of lead poisoning cases in children reported in 1990 have been caused by car exhaust, dropping only five percent from 1985 (Nadis 55). This produces evidence that many, if not all, of the ways to reduce lead in the air that is harmful to humans have failed. All of these matters indicate one thing: The automobile hurts the earth and its people environmentally and physically. In order to stop these things from occurring, we, the entire population as a whole, must consolidate our opinions and come up with alternatives to these harmful activities.
One such alternative is the electrically powered automobile, which runs on a battery much the same as the one underneath the hood of the car now(72). It even looks like a regular car. However, there are differences. The one major difference of the electric car from the gasoline powered car is that the electric car is emission free(73). However, the electric car cannot be implemented into our society because it does not run as long as the gasoline powered vehicles do. Despite this fact, if this type of car were substituted for gasoline powered cars, the environment would be on its way to becoming healthier.
If the electric car is not utilized, some measures must be taken in order to cut down air pollution. One way to do this would be to use cleaner burning fuels than what is used now, which is a mixture of many hydrocarbons(Gasoline). The highest quality fuel that can be obtained is iso- octane, which is given a rating of 100. The lowest quality fuel is heptane, which is graded 0.
The gasoline that we pump into our cars is a mixture that is compared to the performance of both of these fuels. For example, an octane number of 89 means that it compares to a mixture of 89 percent iso-octane and 11 percent heptane. In order to cut down on air pollution, all gas that is pumped out of a station should be graded 95 or higher. However, gasoline is never completely burned in the engine of a car, no matter how high the quality(Air Pollution). This is why alternatives must be considered in order to maintain a healthy environment. These alternatives include hydrocarbons like ethanol and methanol, solar power, and steam power.
These solutions are aimed at the future, though. What can we do now to cut down on the amount of automobiles on the road? One thing that could be done is to limit the use of privately owned gasoline powered cars to specific days of the week, as was done in the 1970’s. Still another way would be to restrict each family to one automobile. It will be tough to inject these solutions into our society, but if enough support is extended from the population, the plans could work. Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile in 1885 on the principle that it would be of help to everyone.
It was seen as that for almost half a century, and then, all of a sudden, people started realizing its harmful effects. People felt the heaviness of the air, heard the noise on the streets, and discovered the harmful effects of lead. All of these things were rightfully blamed on the automobile, a machine that had transformed a relatively unpolluted earth into a contaminated sphere. It will be hard to mend all of these problems, though, because many of them are interrelated. However, a good start is to limit the ownership and use of privately owned gasoline powered automobiles. This will make difficulties like air pollution, noise pollution, natural resource depletion, and lead poisoning much easier to control and eventually do away with in the future.
- Alternative Fuels. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition. Downloaded from America Online, February 6, 1995. Applebee, Liana.
- The Car-Friend and Foe. Social Issues Resources Series, 1980. Automobile History: Alternatives to Gasoline. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition.
- Downloaded from America Online, February 6, 1995. Automobile Industry Model Design: Emissions. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition. Downloaded from America Online, February 6, 1995.
- Automobile Power Plant: Exhaust System. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition. Downloaded from America Online, February 6, 1995. Environmental Pollution: Air Pollution.