Utilizing solar energy will bring us one step closer to sustainable, renewable energy. (Photo by Monica Spencer)

Rising gas prices push towards cleaner, less polluting vehicles

As most of the country faced frigid temperatures and failing infrastructure last month, Arizonans were left with 75 degree overcast weather. But avoiding the extreme weather does not mean there were no negative effects.

Over the last few months, Arizona has seen a steady increase in gas prices that spiked dramatically as the infrastructure where oil is produced failed.

Gas has increased by a whole dollar since the beginning of the year, and over 60 cents since the middle of February when the extreme weather hit. An increase as dramatic as this in such a short time span has roots in more than just infrastructural problems.

As vaccine rollout continues to increase, more people are beginning to leave their homes. This adds people to the road, forcing price to go up as demand grows.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted the price of crude oil to go up in 2021 after the pandemic plummeted the value of it at the time. These projections came before even the inclement weather during February.

While the oil industry is worth billions of dollars to our economy, it is worth considering if now is the time to begin investing in alternative sources of energy. As climate change pushes us towards finding more sustainable and renewable sources of energy, Arizona is a prime location to utilize solar energy.

According to the EIA, Arizona ranks second among states in net generation of solar energy, behind only California. Despite being second, there is a dramatic difference in how much solar energy the two states generate.

Not only does Arizona rank second in generating solar energy, but it is also second in solar energy potential, behind Nevada. Despite being the second best state when it comes to generating solar energy, we have so much more room to grow.

Roughly 85% of our petroleum consumption is used for transportation.

According to State of the Air,  a report from the American Lung Association about air quality in the U.S., Maricopa County an ‘F’ grade when it comes to air quality.

The next logical step is to reduce the number of cars on the road that consume crude oil. The pandemic opened our eyes to how much work can be done at home and how many of our previous habits were unnecessary. I believe the constant commuting to and from work will become less popular going forward.

Additionally, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring all new vehicles sold must be zero-emission by 2035. Arizona should follow suit. All older vehicles would still be able to be operated as they are now; an order like this would be the first step in phasing out gas-guzzling cars.

Arizona operates most of its power from solar and hydroelectric sources. The Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam use the Colorado River to generate power. Combining that with growing solar panel installation will be able to provide energy to most of Arizona.

The growing issue of climate change is forcing our hand in becoming more conscious of our impact on the ecosystem. Arizona is fortunate to have natural resources like the opportunity for solar energy and the use of the Colorado River for hydroelectric energy.

The next step for Arizonans to take is to begin switching our gas-powered cars to electric ones. Our extreme air pollution is a staggering reminder that there are always more we can do when it comes to being sustainable.

Editor’s note: The original story date is March 17. Due to newspaper and college-wide technical difficulties, this story is now made available on April 16.

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