The anger over high gas prices opened up an old debate over the world's limited fossil fuels, their effect on the environment, and solutions for the future. The course of action is clear, the United States must move beyond Fossil Fuels to more environmentally friendly source of energy.
Pollution caused by car fuel is responsible for a number of natural and human afflictions. Topping that long list is acid rain, lung problems including asthma, smog, and global warming. The regulation of car emissions did not begin until 1970. After eighty years of neglect air pollution had become a problem that seemed uncontrollable. President Nixon and his administration struggled to pass legislation that would require vehicles to produce less emissions and be safer for the environment. They did succeed in passing the Federal Clean Air Act, the first in a series of actions meant to improve the quality of air in the United States. The first Act simply stated what was an acceptable amount of emissions and what was not. As the years went by and more provisions were made the Act was still weak, and was used more like a suggestion than a law (Conlin 807).
Cars create pollution in a number of ways. The major contribution is ozone being released at a ground level. The World Resources Institute warns "breathing ozone concentrations of 0.012ppm, levels that are typical in many cities can irritate the respiratory tract and impair lung function causing coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. In addition to the effects that gas produced pollution has on the human body" (66), it can have a severe effect on the planet as a whole. Another component of car emissions is carbon dioxide, a compound which traps heat. Since the Middle Ages the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment has increased by 30% and the temperature of the planet has increased in a similar way. Global warming can cause many environmental problems including damage to coral reefs, spread of disease, droughts, the melting of the North Pole, and most recently documented severe weather conditions like tropical storms and hurricanes.
The amount of gasoline used by cars is staggering. World Resource Institute cites that vehicles used for transportation consumed about 25% of the world's energy, and 80% of that is caused by cars. In 1996 the world's gas consumption topped a trillion liters. America easily uses more gas then it is able to produce. Petroleum is not a renewable resource. The United States imports 50% of the oil it uses (World 79). This leads to an additional problem with petroleum based fuel. The United States has become dependent on foreign countries for this fuel and therefore must maintain a good working relationship with other national governments which nurture terrorism and poor treatment of it's citizens. "Biodiesel is an American-made fuel that can be produced from any fat or vegetable oil, such as soybean oil. Biodiesel is cleaner burning than traditional diesel, and its production and use builds our U.S. economy, rather than our reliance on the Middle East" (Biodiesel, par 3).
A shortage of petroleum gas leads to rising gas prices. Of course there are many simple ways that people can cut down on their gas usage. Many of them involved car pooling, not using gas powered machines on ozone days, and to relearn the virtues of taking and enjoying a nice long walk. However, the bigger