Chevy Volt Could Decelerate America’s Carbon Footprint

Written by Sarene Marshall on . Posted in Learn

If we are going to combat climate change, we have to focus on the major sources of carbon emissions. In the U.S., those are primarily smokestacks and tailpipes.

While walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation all would help address vehicle emissions, those options are simply not viable in many cases in America. Given the arrangements of our cities, communities, and workplaces across the country, it’s clear that the majority of Americans can’t actually live without their cars today.

Maybe over time, we will focus on better urban and suburban planning so we can reduce the time we spend in our cars. But in the meantime, the challenge is to produce cars that can run on something other than gasoline – alternative fuels or electricity, especially if it comes from renewable sources.

The benefits would be win-win-win: reducing our dependence on foreign oil, supporting American jobs, and being better for the environment.

Electric cars have long been talked about, but very few have been made, and even fewer have been the kinds of cars most people would want to drive – tiny, low-powered, and with very short driving distances. In developing the Chevy Volt, it seems General Motors focused on addressing key issues for the consumer, including “range anxiety,” which means literally running out of power in mid-route.

The Volt is exactly the type of innovation we need to see across the U.S. transportation, energy, and industrial sectors to reduce our national carbon footprint.

Post by: Sarene Marshall, climate change program director, The Nature Conservancy

(Photo: Bill Evarts/The Nature Conservancy)

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Comments (3)

  • Dr Frank Gerstle


    To: Sarene Marshall:

    As longtime members (and donors) of the Nature Conservancy, we are appalled at this inappropriate post.

    It appears that the Nature Conservancy has lost its way. We donate expecting the Conservancy to spend its funds acquiring and preserving America’s wild lands and natural habitats. Instead, your post indicates that it is becoming another Sierra Club.

    Your praise of the Chevrolet Volt is misplaced. The electricity to charge its battery must be generated by a real energy source. Since 80% of electricity comes from the either coal or natural gas, the Volt actually produces more CO2/mile when running off its battery than when burning gasoline. Please refer to the straight forward analysis presented at .

    We see no purpose being served by the Nature Conservancy becoming embroiled in the contentious issue of anthropogenic global warming. There are at least a dozen groups doing that.

    If the Conservancy does not return to its stated mission, you may expect no further contributions from us.


    Pauline and Frank Gerstle
    Albuquerque, NM


  • Paul Mackie


    Thank you for your comment, Pauline and Frank. I’ve passed it along to Sarene for her to reply to as soon as possible.



  • Paul Mackie


    Mr. & Mrs. Gerstle –

    Thank you for your comment, and for your long-standing support of the Conservancy. I appreciate your concerns about whether we have strayed from our mission, but want to ensure you that we have not. The Conservancy’s mission to preserve land and water has not changed. But to achieve that mission, we have long employed many tools besides land acquisition.

    Our scientists increasingly tell us that far-reaching threats, including climate change, stand to dramatically impact the lands and waters we seek to conserve, as well as the people that depend on them. And, consistent with the overwhelming scientific consensus on this issue, our scientists believe that addressing the human causes of climate change is essential to avoiding the worst impacts on the planet, including all the places we have worked so hard to protect. That means we need to work not only on specific lands and waters to understand the ramifications of a warming planet and pioneer field-tested solutions that capitalize on nature’s power to address climate change, it also means we must work at the policy level. But the Conservancy has and will continue to engage in policy work in a way true to our pragmatic, non-confrontational style, driven by our science.

    With regard to my post on the Chevy Volt, I most certainly agree with you that electric vehicles alone will not present a single solution to reducing emissions – we must also address the sources of power generation we rely on. But there is no silver bullet when it comes to transforming our energy and transportation infrastructure – we will need lots of innovations, and the Volt may be but one example of those.

    - Sarene Marshall


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Planet Change is a Nature Conservancy blog site designed to share stories about actions the Conservancy and others around the world are taking to fight carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change, and to help people feel the connections between climate change and their daily lives and understand actions they can take.

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