The Roanoke Times, 6 January 2006
The discussion about the reality of global warming has gone on for several years. Climate change is a rapidly developing science, so there are uncertainties. However, the overwhelming consensus of atmospheric scientists is that global warming is real and a growing threat to humans. To keep up to date on the latest news about climate change see http://www.climatewire.org .
Since the current United States administration is doing almost nothing about ameliorating climate change due to global warming, what can we as individual citizens and organizations of citizens do to reduce global warming?
There are many things that we can do as individuals. Many of them are discussed in the recent book, Climate Change Begins at Home by Dave Reay. Many of them cost money up front to save money over the long haul; for example, fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. But instant expenditure of money is not the main issue, unless your have little of it. The real issue regarding climate change due to global warming is emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (non-hybrid vehicles, oil heating and coal power plants are the big culprits) and methane. One really big thing that you can do the next time you need to buy a vehicle is to buy a hybrid vehicle which has about 90% less greenhouse-gas emissions than a comparable conventional vehicle. There should be over 15 different hybrid vehicles for sale by 2007. (I will teach a course about hybrid vehicles for the VT YMCA Open University in March: http://www.vtymca.org/Courses.asp.)
I recently attended a biofuels forum at Averitt University sponsored by Public Policy Virginia (http://www.ppvir.org). It was attended by farmers, scientists, politicians and other interested citizens. It was encouraging to see such a diverse group come together to discuss how we can work together to reduce global warming. With regard to biofuels, the big push needs to be to make available biodiesel for diesel vehicles and ethanol for gasoline vehicles all over our state. Fuel blends that will run in current vehicles without engine alterations are B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% diesel) and E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline). All gasoline vehicles made since the mid 1970s are warranted to burn E10; look in your vehicle's manual as to what fuels it can burn. There are several vehicles being sold now that can burn E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline). You can also burn B20 in your house furnace: http://www.biodiesel.org/markets/hom/faqs.asp. See http://www.wvodesigns.com/wiki/Biodiesel.
When farmers grow crops for production of biodiesel and ethanol using only biodiesel and ethanol, not diesel or gasoline, to grow the crops, greenhouse emission will be greatly reduced. The problem is how to get from now to then! Until we start buying those E10 and B20 fuel blends the farmers will not have the incentives to move in that direction. So what can we do?
I am hopeful that farmers cooperatives in our state can offer B20 and E10 pumps at their locations. It would be helpful if all counties, towns and cities in the state would start using B20 and E10 in their vehicles. I would like to start burning E10 in my hybrid car to even further reduce its emissions, but I do not know where to find an E10 pump in my area. Some states are aggressively moving toward providing E85/E10 fuel blends; for example, Minnesota and South Carolina. (You can find stations that provide E85/E10 for different states at http://www.e85fuel.com/database/search.php . I plan to buy E10 in Greer SC the next time I drive to Atlanta.)
I hope that at least one civic-minded filling-station owner in every county of Virginia will start offering E10 for citizens to buy and that you will buy that blended fuel when it becomes available.
We cannot wait for irresponsible politicians to do something about global warming. We need to take matters into your own hands.
L. David Roper
Prof. Emeritus of Physics, Va. Poly. Inst. and State Univ.
Roper Global-Heating Web Pages