Cars have two opposite personalities. One is friendly and attractive the other is destructive and can be lethal. The desire to own a car is linked to pleasure, sexuality, convenience and freedom. Men lust for attractive, prestigious cars they way they lust for women and women desire men with attractive, prestigious cars. Car manufacturers have long used attractive, lightly clad women to advertise their latest auto designs. Men are also interested in power, performance and want to know something about the engine, although modern engines are sufficiently complex to discourage even the professional mechanic.
Some of the new engine complexity involves emission control systems that require electronic monitoring and adjustment of engine performance under different operating conditions. Several devices are added to the engine to handle air flow in, fuel delivery and exhaust out. Computers have been added to monitor and control engine performance. Most car engines designed after 1996 have a standard port that allows a diagnostic computer access to information about engine performance. Driving a car is the most polluting act an average citizen commits.
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Emissions from passenger vehicles are increasing in Canada and the US despite attempts to make engines more fuel efficient and despite the addition of antipollution devices. The two main reasons are: 1. vehicle use has increased; 2. cars were getting bigger and pick-up trucks, vans and sports vehicles often replaced smaller, lighter passenger cars. The average new vehicle in 2003 consumed more fuel that its counterpart in 1988. In the USA in 1987 cars averaged 25. 9 miles to the gallon. Fuel efficiency dropped to 24. miles/gallon by 1998 and is dropping further as larger vehicles replace smaller ones. Despite scientific evidence of climate change, governments in most affluent countries have avoided their responsibility to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. The USA is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide. US emissions have increased to 7 billion tones of CO2 in 2004, 16 % higher than emissions in the late 90’s. The UK has done better reducing their emissions to about 0. 6 billion tons, 14% below 1990 levels.
Exhaust from all combustion engines combine to produce local adverse effects on the health of car users and all innocent bystanders. Cities have become islands of toxic chemicals from the unrestrained use of vehicles burning fossil fuels. Cars are noisy, ugly, often dangerous and dominate the experience of modern living. We are now used to the carnage on roads and highways- attempts to reduce death and disability from our motorized containers have not substantially altered the negative impact on society.
The adverse health effects of car exhaust are pervasive and difficult to measure. Television Ads for sports and recreation vehicles show solitary, impeccable machines in wilderness locations. One TV ad shows a couple making a mad dash to escape the city core in their expensive, luxury upholstered clone of the land-rover. The ads are selling a fantasy of wilderness, fresh air and escape. Is the consumer is completely deluded? These vehicles are mostly found in suburban driveways and in the traffic jams of polluted cities.
They have nowhere to go to escape the environmental degradation they help to create. 4×4 drives and large tires are rarely useful and are not suited to highway driving, You see these machines, submerged in suburban driveways by the floods they helped to create. Combustion engines contribute to greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere and are responsible for climate changes. A sane, sober revision of vehicle use is long overdue.
While ethanol has been championed as an alternative to petroleum fuels, it mainly helps to reduce dependency on oil producing countries. When ethanol is made from corn, more than 75% of its energy value must be spent on its production. Burning ethanol still produces carbon dioxide. Climate change with extreme weather events threatens corn production in the US, where for decades corn surplus were common. The new competition between hastily constructed ethanol plants and food production suddenly in 2008 became an international issue.