The automobile has become a very important part of today’s society. It
is a necessity to own or to have access to a car in order to keep up with all of
the competition of the business world, and also one’s social demands. Most
people would not be able to travel around a country or the world without this
incredible machine, for it provides freedom and mobility, even for people who do
not own a car. Unfortunately, the car has a very destructive nature.
Automobiles make a major contribution to air and noise pollution, depletion of
fossil fuels, and to the abnormalities in children and adults due to lead
poisoning. In order to stop this devastation, the use of gas powered
automobiles must be limited by replacing them with alternative modes of
transportation, or by finding a way to ease them out of utilization.
There are many reasons why the number of privately owned gasoline
powered cars on the road should be limited. First of all, and most importantly,
automobiles are harmful to our environment. Automobiles run on gasoline, which
is a mixture derived from petroleum.
Gasoline contains hundreds of different
hydrocarbons, or compounds containing the chemical elements carbon and
hydrogen(Gasoline). When the gas is burned in the engine of the car, several
byproducts result. These exhausts include hydrocarbons and oxides of three
elements: Carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur(Emissions). Tiny amounts of poisonous
trace elements such as lead, cadmium, and nickel also are present. Everything
contained in the exhaust affects the environment intensely.
Auto engine exhaust
contributes about 50% of today’s atmospheric pollution, and in highly populated
and industrialized cities, air pollution consists of up to 80% car exhaust.
Because of all of the gasoline powered cars on the road, the earth’s
outermost protective shell, the ozone layer, is being destroyed. The ozone
layer guards against, among other things, global warming and skin cancer(Fisher
14). If it is annihilated, the whole planet, including the human race, will be
erased along with it. This is one reason gasoline powered automobiles should be
The automobile also contributes to noise pollution. Cities around the
world are constantly packed with cars, and, as a result, there are traffic jams.
Patience, as a virtue, is not always bestowed on everyone, and, therefore,
people start honking their horns and yelling at others. This produces a
polyphonic sound that is not very pleasing to anyone, especially those in the
traffic jam who have already had a stressful day at work. Obviously, this is
not the fault of the automobile itself, but the fault of the owners. If there
were a limit on the number of cars allowed on such public roads as Fifth Avenue
or the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City, noise pollution, and air pollution,
for that matter, would not be a major factor of environmental degradation.
Another reason privately owned gasoline powered vehicles should be
limited is the depletion of the fossil fuel supply. People all over the world
need petroleum, a fossil fuel, to fill their cars in order to get around.
However, petroleum, like many other natural resources on this earth, is in short
supply. The continued use of petroleum at the current rate will cause the
limited supply to dwindle. Our society does not seem to realize this point,
though, and, as a result, petroleum is wasted in many ways while en route to an
automobile’s gas tank.
Oil companies transport petroleum all over the world by many means. Over
the years, some methods have proved to be dangerous, such as the truck, train,
tanker, or boat. A clear example of this danger occurred when the Exxon Valdez
tanker ran aground in March of 1989(Nadis 16). The Valdez was carrying 11
million gallons of oil, and a drunk captain, across the Prince William Sound at
the time of the disaster. All 11 million gallons poured out, thereafter seen
only upon the thousands of species of animals that this accident destroyed. A
total ecological system was wiped out from a shipment of oil meant for
Oil is not only lost in transport, though. Storage tanks can waste
quite a lot of petroleum without anyone knowing about it, but, at the same time,
polluting the environment. Seventeen million gallons of oil have leaked from a
storage tank of a service station in Brooklyn, New York(Nadis 17). A similar
situation has occurred in El Segundo, California, but on a much grander scale.
A two hundred million gallon pool lies underneath a service station there, and
twenty eight million gallons of that has oozed closer to the San Francisco Bay,
endangering water supplies(17).
Among the nearly six million underground oil
tanks that exist in this country, five hundred thousand are believed to be
leaking at the moment, wasting millions of gallons of petroleum that could be
used to heat houses and fuel industries(17). However, this natural resource
sits under gas stations, waiting to be pumped into a car. Instead of oil
helping humanity, the loss of oil hurts it.
A third reason privately owned gasoline powered vehicles should be
limited is because they are contributing to an enormous source of lead in the
air, which is dangerous to the body. When gasoline is burned in the engine of
an automobile, it can release many things, dependent upon what type of gasoline
it is. There are two main types of gasoline, leaded and unleaded. The leaded
contains lead, while the unleaded does not contain as much. Fortunately, most
cars today require gasoline of the unleaded type. However, some old cars still
in use need leaded fuel(52). This poses a threat to every person in the world,
for every one of us could die of lead poisoning.
Lead was first added to gasoline in the 1920’s to improve car mileage
and prevent engine knock, or an explosion that occurs when the gas is compressed
in the engine(Applebee 2). Lead levels in human blood rose with the
proliferation of cars and trucks on the highway(2). It has since been proved
that auto emissions are the single largest source of lead in our environment,
and that high levels of lead in young children can cause brain damage, mental
retardation, kidney disorders, and interfere with the processing of Vitamin
D(Applebee 2; Gurman 2).
Because of the preponderance of unleaded fuel on the market, the amount
of lead in the air has decreased. But does this mean that the chance of lead
poisoning from car exhaust has decreased dramatically? Not at all. Over twenty
percent of lead poisoning cases in children reported in 1990 have been caused by
car exhaust, dropping only five percent from 1985 (Nadis 55). This produces
evidence that many, if not all, of the ways to reduce lead in the air that is
harmful to humans have failed.
All of these matters indicate one thing: The automobile hurts the earth
and its people environmentally and physically. In order to stop these things
from occurring, we, the entire population as a whole, must consolidate our
opinions and come up with alternatives to these harmful activities.
One such alternative is the electrically powered automobile, which runs
on a battery much the same as the one underneath the hood of the car now(72). It
even looks like a regular car. However, there are differences. The one major
difference of the electric car from the gasoline powered car is that the
electric car is emission free(73). However, the electric car cannot be
implemented into our society because it does not run as long as the gasoline
powered vehicles do. Despite this fact, if this type of car were substituted
for gasoline powered cars, the environment would be on its way to becoming
If the electric car is not utilized, some measures must be taken in
order to cut down air pollution. One way to do this would be to use cleaner
burning fuels than what is used now, which is a mixture of many
hydrocarbons(Gasoline). The highest quality fuel that can be obtained is iso-
octane, which is given a rating of 100. The lowest quality fuel is heptane,
which is graded 0. The gasoline that we pump into our cars is a mixture that is
compared to the performance of both of these fuels. For example, an octane
number of 89 means that it compares to a mixture of 89 percent iso-octane and 11
percent heptane. In order to cut down on air pollution, all gas that is pumped
out of a station should be graded 95 or higher.
However, gasoline is never completely burned in the engine of a car, no
matter how high the quality(Air Pollution). This is why alternatives must be
considered in order to maintain a healthy environment. These alternatives
include hydrocarbons like ethanol and methanol, solar power, and steam power.
These solutions are aimed at the future, though. What can we do now to
cut down on the amount of automobiles on the road? One thing that could be done
is to limit the use of privately owned gasoline powered cars to specific days of
the week, as was done in the 1970’s. Still another way would be to restrict
each family to one automobile. It will be tough to inject these solutions into
our society, but if enough support is extended from the population, the plans
Gottlieb Daimler invented the automobile in 1885 on the principle that
it would be of help to everyone. It was seen as that for almost half a century,
and then, all of a sudden, people started realizing its harmful effects. People
felt the heaviness of the air, heard the noise on the streets, and discovered
the harmful effects of lead. All of these things were rightfully blamed on the
automobile, a machine that had transformed a relatively unpolluted earth into a
contaminated sphere. It will be hard to mend all of these problems, though,
because many of them are interrelated. However, a good start is to limit the
ownership and use of privately owned gasoline powered automobiles. This will
make difficulties like air pollution, noise pollution, natural resource
depletion, and lead poisoning much easier to control and eventually do away with
in the future.
Alternative Fuels. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition. Downloaded from
America Online, February 6, 1995.
Applebee, Liana. The Car-Friend and Foe. Social Issues Resources Series, 1980.
Automobile History: Alternatives to Gasoline. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online
Edition. Downloaded from America Online, February 6, 1995.
Automobile Industry Model Design: Emissions. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online
Edition. Downloaded from America Online, February 6, 1995.
Automobile Power Plant: Exhaust System. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Online Edition.
Downloaded from America Online, February 6, 1995.
Environmental Pollution: Air Pollution.