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Scientists are working on the development of alternative fuels such as biofuels or hydrogen, but these have their own limitations. For example, a significant amount of land area is required to produce crops for biofuels; if we converted every single acre of corn grown in the U.S. to ethanol, it would provide 10% of our transportation energy needs. Furthermore, growing crops for fuel rather than food has already sparked price increases and protests in less-developed countries around the world ( IMF, 2010 ). Is it fair to ask someone living on less then two dollars a day to pay half again as much for their food so we can drive wherever and whenever we want?

Emissions or outputs

The engine of the typical automobile or truck emits all sorts of noxious outputs. Some of them, including sulfur dioxides, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter, are directly harmful to humans; they irritate our lungs and make it hard for us to breathe. (Plants are damaged in much the same way). These emissions come from either impure fuel or incomplete burning of fuel within an engine. Other noxious outputs cause harm indirectly. Nitrous oxides (the stuff that makes smog look brown) from exhaust, for example, interact with oxygen in the presence of sunlight (which is why smog is worse in Los Angeles and Houston), and ozone also damages our lungs.

Carbon dioxide, another emission that causes harm indirectly, is the most prevalent greenhouse gas (GHG), and transportation accounts for 23% of the CO 2 generated in the U.S. This is more than residential, commercial, or industrial users, behind only electrical power generation ( DOE, 2009 ). Of course, as was explained above, transportation is a derived demand, so to say that transportation itself is generating carbon emissions is somewhat misleading. The distance between activities, the modes we choose to get between them, and the amount of stuff we consume and where it is manufactured, all contribute to that derived demand and must be addressed in order to reduce GHG emissions from transportation.

Social impacts

If the definition of sustainability includes meeting the needs of the present population as well as the future, our current transportation system is a failure. Within most of the U.S., lack of access to a personal automobile means greatly reduced travel or none at all. For people who are too young, too old, or physically unable to drive, this means asking others for rides, relying heavily on under-funded public transit systems, or simply not traveling. Consider, for example, how children in the U.S. travel to and from school. In 1970, about 50% of school-aged children walked or biked to school, but by 2001, that number had dropped to 15% ( Appleyard, 2005 ). At the same time that childhood obesity and diabetes are rising, children are getting less and less exercise, even something as simple as walking to school. Furthermore, parents dropping off their children at school can increase traffic levels by 20 to 25%, not just at the school itself, but also throughout the town in question ( Appleyard, 2005 ). At the other end of the age spectrum, elderly people may be functionally trapped in their homes if they are unable to drive and lack another means of getting to shopping, health care, social activities, etc. Finally, Hurricane Katrina made it clear that access to a car can actually be a matter of life or death: the evacuation of New Orleans worked very well for people with cars, but hundreds died because they didn't have the ability to drive away.

Questions & Answers

Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Berger describes sociologists as concerned with
Mueller Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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