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The Mast-Head: Switching to Green

Wed, 01/04/2023 - 17:44

Letters to the editor this week about new initiatives to combat planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions describe a renewed optimism. This is largely due to a massive federal spending package designed to accelerate a host of measures to meet the challenges of climate change. Much comes down to choices that individual Americans can make. I thought it worthwhile to describe a little about my own experience, specifically with my cars.

I am now on my second plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or P.H.E.V. The first was a Chevy Volt, which I had for three years until the lease was up; the second, a discontinued Honda Clarity, which a friend calls the ugliest car ever. At a combined gas and electric of 100 or more miles per gallon the way I drive it, I could care less what he thinks.

The fact is that with about a 15-mile round trip from home to work — and a 240-volt charger at the office — I rarely have to fill up its six-gallon fuel tank at all. The Clarity’s gas-sipping ways are so thrifty that when fuel prices rose last year and people started to complain, I initially had no idea what they were grumbling about. Honda recommends using high-test since it apparently does better sitting unused for weeks in its fuel tank.

Unlike full-electric vehicles, P.H.E.V.s have basically unlimited range. My ugly Honda can make it from Amagansett past Riverhead before it switches over to run on gasoline. I went to New Hampshire and back this week on about $40 of premium.

Fossil fuels burned for transportation account for about 14 percent of greenhouse gases worldwide. As the electric grid increasingly turns to renewables, zero and low-emission vehicles will play a larger role in reducing the rate of global warming. Even with the mixed sources of power today, electric vehicles and P.H.E.V.s already are responsible for at least a third less carbon dioxide than their all-gas counterparts. The more the grid is converted to wind, solar, hydropower, and even nuclear, the better that will be for the climate. As small a role as I have as an individual, I am happy to be playing a part. Next week: my experience with rooftop solar.


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