How and Why to Buy a Green Car

Using EPA’s Online Tool To Choose the Most Efficient Car and Save

Last week the EPA rejected California’s bid to limit greenhouse gases from cars. It will surely be tied up in court for some time, but that doesn’t mean consumers have to wait to buy greener vehicles. Choosing an efficient vehicle today can help save the planet and money. A U.S. Government online tool makes this easier than ever.

These days just about everyone’s aware of global warming and paying attention to their energy use. Maybe they buy compact fluorescent bulbs, maybe they purchase carbon offsets. Nobody would do something silly like leave their refrigerator door open overnight, let alone for months and months.

But wait—maybe in effect, many of us are doing just that. Choosing to drive an SUV instead of a passenger car, in just one year, is the energy equivalent of leaving your refrigerator door open for 6 years. Hard to believe, but it’s true.

The Bush Administration’s EPA rejected the bid by California and 16 other states to improve the efficiency and greenhouse gas performance of passenger cars and trucks. Hopefully, the states will prevail in court. But if President Bush gets his way, fuel mileage won’t be increased until 2020. That’s a long time in a world fast careening towards climate calamity.

But really, there is no need to wait for government action. Every vehicle owner has the power to make cars and trucks cleaner right now. How many trips per year actually require an SUV, van or truck? What if even half of the drivers of these larger vehicles bought a passenger car instead? The U.S. would be much further down the road to climate sustainability. And would also rely less on foreign oil.

Even without owning a large vehicle, it’s still possible to haul bigger things when needed. Most people can rent a van or truck for a couple of times per year when the hauling space is needed. Furthermore, the lower sticker price plus fuel savings of a passenger car would more than make up for the cost of rentals.

It’s time to make a commitment to keep the planet in mind while buying a car. This means choosing the most efficient car that suits one’s needs. There’s even a handy website to help make the choice. At the U.S. EPA and Department of Energy Fuel Economy website, it’s easy to compare the mpg for any make or model of a passenger vehicle.

Of course, the Civic hybrid or Prius are some of the top choices from a planetary perspective. But for anyone who can’t afford a hybrid today, there are plenty of other very efficient models.

And the fuel economy tool works for used cars too, since it has information for vehicles all the way back to 1985. They even recently updated the older data, to make it compatible with new car data (which is under updated testing rules). This means one can compare all vehicles on an “apples-to-apples” basis.

The government can, and eventually will force automakers to offer more efficient vehicles in every class. But for now, it’s up to consumers to choose efficiency. The health of the planet hangs in the balance.

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