During the 2015-16 academic year, Rider’s commuters likely traveled a total of about 9,680,400 miles going from home to campus and back again. Based on studies from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average fuel economy for cars of 2016 was at an impressive 24.3 miles per gallon. That means that nearly 400,000 gallons of gasoline were consumed in one year by just Rider student commuters. While the fuel economy for gas vehicles keeps improving and electric cars are becoming more mainstream, there continues to be a significant impact of fossil fuels on the environment.
When asked how much gasoline her car uses per week, freshman television, film and radio major Jordan Dreyer said, “It really depends on how much driving I do each week, but on average, I probably use about nine gallons.”
Freshman popular music studies major Brian Specian said, “Since my car is older and I drive around a lot, my car uses about fifteen gallons of gas each week.”
The numbers may be different, but the effects remain the same. All fossil fuel-powered vehicles release carbon dioxide, which creates a greenhouse effect on the earth and contributes to the warming of the atmosphere.
Whether or not it is readily known, all people, commuters and non-commuters, use some sort of fossil fuel every day. Since plastic is made from petroleum, an easy exercise would be to write down everything you touch in a single day that’s made from plastic. You will be amazed at how long the list will be. Aside from plastic items, think about all of your electronics that require an electric charge to run. It all adds up.
Fossil fuels range in form from gasoline to coal to natural gas, and they all originate from the remains of ancient animals and plants. While these energy sources are effective and widely available, they bring some environmental implications with their extraction, transport and use. On top of that, they are finite resources, so they won’t last forever, and alternatives will be needed to maintain the quality of life we have become accustomed to.
The two primary methods of mining fossil fuels are underground mining and surface mining, both of which pose threats to the environment and people, according to Greenpeace International. In terms of underground mining, the most prominent issue concerns the health of the mine workers in that environment. They are constantly subjected to dust and debris moving throughout the work space and are in danger of a mine suddenly collapsing. There are environmental impacts, including disruptions of natural water and acid mine drainage, which creates water that is highly acidic and rich in heavy metals that are detrimental to plant and animal life.
Surface mining results in mountaintop removal, leading to the heavy loss of habitat and plant life, permanently changing the landscape of the affected area. Furthermore, the soil that remains at these sites is infertile. As reported by the EPA in 2010, mountaintop removal mining buried nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian headwater streams that were crucial to marine wildlife.
The production and use of all types of fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide, and the use of gasoline is a huge contributor to this problem.
Although strides are being made to reduce the use of fossil fuels with hybrid cars and alternative energy methods such as solar and wind power, it still remains an issue that everyone needs to work on in order to transition into a brighter, greener future. The great part of this, however, is that all of us at Rider have the ability to reduce the use of fossil fuels and take advantage of renewable energy. As consumers, we have choices, and with so many commuters, that choice includes the cars we buy.
Sophomore environmental science major Rahul Mehta said, “Electric cars are becoming more and more inexpensive, making it easier for consumers to purchase while also taking [into] account the increasing gas prices.”
With enough people working together on this issue, the rate of fossil fuel usage will decrease even more, creating a greener, more sustainable environment.
— Dean Riddle
Lawrenceville Eco Rep