Neutral Carbon Automobiles

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This is a new concept that car manufacturers have come up with to help offset the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted by the cars it sells.  A number of trees are planted for each car to help offset the CO2 that contributes to the greenhouse gas effect.  The only problem is that this is not a quick fix.  And how does one calculate how many trees need to be grown to really offset the amount of CO2?  And seeing how we are already behind how do we catch up and get ahead of the greenhouse gas effect?

It has been calculated that for every liter of gasoline burned in an automobile it puts out two kilograms of carbon dioxide; which equates 4.4 pounds.  The formula used to figure out how much you car emit is actually pretty simple you need the size of your engine, what does it use to run i.e.: gasoline vs. diesel fuel how far you travel each week and there is a deduction if you utilize public transportation.  When I plugged my numbers in, mind you I drive a 4 cylinder Subaru and work less than ten miles away from home, my car puts out 0.7 metric tonnes of CO2 which calculates to 1,543.23 pounds of CO2 per week.  Needless to say I was taken aback by this number.  So how many trees do I need to plant to offset that much CO2?  That calculation I don’t know, but it would seem like a lot; like I’d have to plant a whole new rain forest.

So is offsetting the answer?  I think it does help, but the planet needs more than the bean counters trying to figure out how many trees need to be planted to offset car emissions.  The car manufacturers are producing cars that are more environmentally sounds like electric cars and cars that do use alternative fuels other than fossil fuels.  People need to think before they drive, condense you errands to one day, use public transportation when possible, carpool to work, get the older cars off the road and update and maintain you own car so not to increase the amount of CO2 emissions from your car and plant the trees.  The idea of offsetting would work only in conjunction with other interventions in place as well.

The offsetting concept is that as the cars emit carbon dioxide the trees need that gas to survive and in return the tree emits oxygen.  It goes back to the basic organic science of photosynthesis.  But buyers beware, there are benefits and companies out there that will sponsor offsetting projects, but a portion of the trees don’t survive the replant.  There are websites that will figure out how many trees you can plant which is equivalent to your emissions and you can purchase those trees and have them planted.   The calculation is much longer and more complicated than the above calculation on figuring out your emissions.  The concept is not a bad idea it’s just not enough, people and car manufacturers need to make a conscious effort to reduce car emissions and there needs to be much more planting for this idea to come to fruition.

Photo by: MaksymFilipchuk –

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  1. Jen Pearlman says:

    Interesting & good food for thought. As mindful as I try to be about my impact here, there’s always another step I can do to make it better. Thanks for the article!

  2. Odum says:

    Just another poorly attempted band-aid solution to the ongoing green house gas problem (can I call it crisis yet?).

    As was pointed out in the article it takes decades for a tree to grow to a big enough size to actually really start taking in large quantities of carbon dioxide. But maybe planting a few trees will makes us feel good enough to not worry about the problem until it becomes someone else’s problem – passing it on to our children, just like we’ve always done.

    The electric car was here about 15 years ago and the auto/gas industry took care of that innovation pretty quick, and now after all that time this is what they come up with and we’re supposed to applaud their green efforts?

    Sorry for sounding so angry, but hearing stuff like this just really gets under my skin.

  3. Catherine says:

    Anything that cuts down on emissions is a good idea.

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