Automobile Use

Dr. John Vann, Department of Marketing
Green Initiatives Coordinator
February 2002

Automobile use is expensive and generates high levels of CO2. According to a Redefining Progress report, transportation accounted for 19% of total consumer expenditures in 1999, up from 12.5% in 1950.  For automobiles, a major life-cycle cost is fuel (150,000 miles at 20 miles per gallon requires 7,500 gallons; at $1 per gallon = $7,500).  In addition, the use of gasoline contributes approximately one pound of CO2 to the atmosphere for each mile driven (19.64 pounds of CO2 per gallon according to the EPA).  So a round trip from Muncie to Indianapolis generates about 110 pounds of CO2.

As individuals and as a University community we can reduce fuel expenditures and CO2 emissions.  Buy and use light, fuel-efficient cars, car pool, limit our driving, use public transportation wherever possible (the campus shuttle for example), and ride bicycles more. The Union of Concerned Scientists recommends that we not leave our vehicles idling for more than a minute (by definition this gives zero miles per gallon). Think of all those waits at the train crossings in Muncie! They also recommend that we maintain proper tire inflation levels. Easy ways to save money and reduce pollution!

Individuals and institutions can also help by purchasing hybrid electric vehicles, which get two to three times the mileage of conventional vehicles. When traveling to conferences, request hybrid electric cars from your rental agency even though you may not get one. The web site,, shows the few airports where this is possible now. Requesting them will alert travel agents and rental agencies that there is a demand and should increase availability.

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