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U.S. Transportation Emissions Expected To Shoot Up Again In 2021 & 2022

The silver lining of the pandemic was a bit of clearing the air, creating fresher air. It was an absolute reminder that living more simply could bring not only improvements to our daily routines, but could ripple through all of society.

The silver lining of the pandemic was a bit of clearing the air, creating fresher air. It was an absolute reminder that living more simply could bring not only improvements to our daily routines, but could ripple through all of society. Indeed, as car-free living due to quarantines prevailed, our skies cleared, our roads were less congested, and folks were able to breathe cleaner air. The Earth had a momentary pause from escalating CO2 emissions, greenhouse gas emissions that are heating up our planet. Certainly, mother nature relaxed, but only for a pause.

Science and data back up that pause with facts, such as that finding that 11,000 air pollution-related deaths were avoided in Europe as coal & oil consumption plummeted.

Research also happened to find that the virus traveled faster on dirty air. See: “Airborne Coronavirus: Scientists In Italy Find Coronavirus On Air Pollution Particles.”

Many of us were hopeful that a response to the information would be changing our ways in the long run. Smart mayors were intent on keeping their cities moving in that direction.

New York City has experienced a high in bicycling as urbanites have avoided mass transit and ride-hailing and have reinvented their traveling methods across the city. What many don’t realize is how much that helps society as a whole. A study out of Toronto has found that a single electric car can bring nearly $10,000 in social benefits. Bicycling can certainly offer the same.

I know city dwellers who “learned to bicycle” once again, improved their mental health. After finding the freedom and improved mental health from outdoor exercise, I think they will remain bicycle commuters. Unfortunately, the traffic has returned to discourage them. Air is not as fresh, and congestion is returning. The question is: how can society avoid returning to the previous patterns that are so harmful to our health, air quality, and climate.

This TV detective series based in the Netherlands has the detectives working mainly on bicycles or as pedestrians. What struck me is how much that is the cultural norm there. It is a delightful way of looking at or reflecting on more carefree cultures.

I drive an electric car. However, I know the car-free living, which I’ve also done, provides a more balanced, happier life. There’s a somehow inexplicable feeling of freedom that comes with car-free life.

In the U.S., unfortunately, information for the U.S. Energy Information Administration, implies we are going to backtrack a great deal and return to 2019 emissions levels from petroleum in 2022.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO)

In its January 2021 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that it “expects total energy-related CO2 emissions to increase to 4.8 billion metric tons in 2021 and 4.9 billion metric tons in 2022,” according to a new article written by Kevin Nakolan and others at the agency.

“U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell by an estimated 11% in 2020, largely because of reduced travel and other factors that have led to less energy consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the short term, EIA forecasts rising CO2 emissions as a result of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in fuel mix, and greater demand for residential electricity as colder winter weather leads to more heating demand in 2021.

“EIA expects petroleum to account for about 46% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2021 and 47% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2022. Most of these emissions come from the transportation sector as a result of increased travel as the economy recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Such a shame. While Europe is seeing 23% plugin electric vehicle market share, the United States is far, far below that and emissions are shooting back up to a great extent as people go back to driving their gasoline-powered cars. We could do better.

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Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits.


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