Some positive developments in helping reduce pollution is already taking place. For example, “Many state and local government officials are pursuing vehicle emission inspection, high occupancy vehicle lanes, and carpooling programs to reduce auto pollution.” (Meotti, 1995, p.27) While these measures should be appreciated, they can only be stop-gap measures, for clean fuels can reduce auto emissions at far less a price. The biggest problem faced by policy-makers at this point is in making Americans aware of their luxurious ways. Despite comprising 5% of total world population, Americans consume 25% of its energy resources, which is highly disproportionate and indicates the country’s love affair with cars. Despite rising gasoline costs, traffic congestion and parking lot hassles, Americans continue to own at least one car per person. (Meotti, 1995, p.27)
It is important though not to get carried away by the potential of alternative fuel vehicles. In fact, there are no longitudinal studies or statistical data available to verify the sustainable use of alternative fuels in transportation. While new transportation technologies may “have been on the horizon for decades: the hydrogen fuel cell, biodiesel, electric cars and scooters, solar-powered cars. But when it comes to emissions reduction, the hype may be greater than the promise.” (McNally, 2003, p.30) And before conclusive proof of the advantages of alternative fuel vehicles is available, hybrid electric vehicles might be the best option in the near future. Hybrid vehicles look similar to conventional vehicles with an electric motor that aids the working of gasoline engine. It also boasts of a regenerative braking system that saves
“otherwise-lost energy in a battery for later use by the electric motor. This design brings significant gains in fuel efficiency, which translates into fewer emissions per kilometre travelled. The fuel efficiency advantage of hybrids arises mainly from the greater energy efficiency of electric motors at low speeds, such as driving in traffic. The battery also means the gas engine does not need to run when the car is stopped, reducing idling emissions. The hybrid exploits these benefits while also making use of the weight and space advantages of petroleum fuel over batteries.” (McNally, 2003, p.30)
But as of today, the biggest hurdle to embracing alternative fuel vehicles is the power exerted by the oil industry. Since the alternative fuel market will cut down on their market-share, they have tried to strangle fledgling ideas in their early stages. There is a very informative documentary film called ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’, in which the hurdles and opposition faced by promoters of electric cars is recorded. During the 1980s and 1990s, several viable prototypes of electric or hybrid vehicles were promoted by a group of entrepreneurial auto manufacturers. But despite these cars proving their adaptability to American city and highway usage, their commercial release have either been suppressed or revoked due to pressure from the oil industry. (Oliver & Hospers, 2001, p.20)
Hence, in conclusion, in order for America to have a sustainable energy future, the emphasis on near-term profit should be replaced by moderate but long-term profits. The government too should continue its path of providing tax-benefits for auto-manufacturers and energy producers who tread the alternative path. More importantly, the government should create an awareness among the general population, so that it loses its obsession with gasoline-consuming SUVs and other passenger vehicles and opts for more efficient/mass transit transportation options. A culture of eco-preservation should be perpetuated among consumers, so that they make smart, viable and sustainable choices that benefit themselves as well as the environment.