The United States is historically, and often proudly, a nation of cars. This perhaps relates to the country’s strong ethos of independence and the symbolic (as well as practical) role automobiles have played in this sense of personal freedom. Whereas extensive public transportation is regarded as a public imperative in nations throughout Europe, America prides itself on being behind the wheel, both literally and metaphorically.
Therefore, it is,unsurprising that transportation is the country’s largest source of CO2 emissions. In 2020, this sector accounted for 27% of total greenhouse gas emissions nationwide, amounting to around 1.6 billion metric tons, more than the agriculture, residential, and commercial sectors combined. This figure accounts for fossil fuels burned by all forms of transportation—cars, trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes. These emissions have long-lasting effects beyond eroding the earth’s atmosphere and contributing to climate change. For instance, transportation emissions are responsible for over 55% of nitrogen oxides released into the air, a major component of smog and air pollution.
However, the good news is that the American transportation industry can steer its long-standing tradition of innovation toward environmentally conscious systems. In the past years, strides have been made in expanding public transportation systems, multimodal infrastructure, and accessibility of electric vehicles—not just electric cars and trucks, but e-bikes and scooters. One school district in Maryland, for example, recently introduced the largest fleet of electric school buses to hit the road, and multiple states are factoring in parking spaces, multiuse roads, and pedestrian navigation support to make cities more inclusive of various modes of transportation.
Citing data from the Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, Velotric visualized transportation emissions in the U.S. and how it varies by state.