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Here's some news on the cost of fighting pollution. It's cheaper than it seems. It is commonly assumed that it costs more to run a hybrid or electric car than it does a traditional car. But a study out this week found that cleaner cars save money when you include the operating and maintenance costs. NPR's Rae Ellen Bichell reports.
RAE ELLEN BICHELL, BYLINE: Cars and trucks spit out a fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions in this country. That's why energy scientist Jessika Trancik decided it was time to take a closer look at them.
JESSIKA TRANCIK: The question that we started with was, how do cars - how do personal vehicles compare to climate targets?
BICHELL: Trancik is with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She and her colleagues compared the cost of the 125 most popular cars in the U.S. to the amount of greenhouse gases they release. What they found might surprise people.
TRANCIK: You don't actually have to pay more for those lowest emitting vehicles.
BICHELL: If you include all the money it takes to fuel and maintain a car over its lifetime, they found that cleaner cars can actually save more money, and that's even without government subsidies. The information is public on a webpage called carboncounter.com. The MIT researchers also published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Some cars, like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius, already meet global climate goals set for 2030. But most Americans are still buying fossil fuel-guzzling cars.
TRANCIK: So there certainly is a disconnect between the kinds of cars people are buying and where we need to get to by 2030.
BICHELL: Not to mention where we need to get by 2050. That goal is to shave emissions down by 80 percent of what they were in 1990. Chris Gearhart directs transportation research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.
CHRIS GEARHART: I come to work every day because I think that getting greenhouse gas emissions out of the transportation sector is among the most important things that we can work on.
BICHELL: He says the MIT study is exciting because it shows how individual choices can make an impact.
GEARHART: You don't have to have a bank account that can afford a Tesla.
BICHELL: But, he says, there's still a lot of work to do. To meet mid-century climate goals, Gearhart says, most Americans will need to transition to zero-emission cars.
Rae Ellen Bichell, NPR News.
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