Sustainability Reads: February 22- March 6

Americans Are Driving More Than Ever
New data from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration came out and it is not pretty: Americans drove more in 2015 than ever. We drove 3.15 trillion miles with the previous record set in 2007 with 3 trillion! In case you forgot, more driving means more greenhouse gas emissions. Cheap gas prices and growing economy are cited as reasons, but it is possible for Americans to drive less; driving was basically flat between 2004-2014 then driving jumped 2.5% in 2014. What can you do? Support smart, sustainable city planning and take public transport, carpool, walk, or bike when you can. By Camille von Kaenel at ClimateWire, also published in Scientific American.

Driverless car green gains curbed by increased traffic
The debate about whether car sharing services and driverless cars are sustainable or not is a hot topic but both arguments are lacking support due a slew of complex and unknown variables and a lack of data to provide insight. However, this article draws on a study that points to the main variable that swings the debate towards driverless cars (and also sharing services) not being sustainable: an uptick in driving. Researchers found that although computers drive 20% more efficiently than people and are less prone to crashes, automated vehicles may increase energy use by up to 60%, outweighing the efficiency gains. More specifically, by making driving more attractive it will encourage people to switch from more sustainable modes of transportation such as buses and trains. Interest and research in this area are developing quickly so we’ll keep an eye on it. By Megan Darby at Climate Home, study published in Transportation Journal Part A.

India introduces car sales tax to combat pollution
The finance minister of India announced a tax of up to 4% on new passenger vehicles as part of his annual union budget this past week. The tax is intended to fight high levels of air pollution and congestion in the country. India, which has the world’s worst air pollution- even more so than China- has many cities that regularly see air pollution exposure levels 15 to 20 times the recommended levels in the U.S. and Europe. Environmentalists and scientists claim that vehicle emissions cause 40% of air pollution in New Delhi, a statistic car manufacturers repute. The new tax will impose a 1% tax on smaller cars less  that run on petrol, liquified petroleum gas, or compressed natural gas. Small diesel cars will be taxed at 2.5%, and bigger diesel vehicles at 4%. The tax will generate an estimated 30 billion rupees ($439 million) in revenue for the government. By Jason Burke at The Guardian.

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