Images Credit Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory
Have a look at that graph. (Click on it to enlarge). It shows the breakdown of CO2 generated directly (the blue, mainly motor vehicle fuel) and indirectly (the green, the footprint of everything else like delivery trucks and manufacturing). Like every other graph we have shown, from Lawrence Livermore to Archtypes to EPA/Rose, it shows the same thing: Our biggest problem is our cars and how far we drive them.
And with gas hitting four bucks a gallon, it is clear that it isn't just a carbon problem, it is an economic problem and a political problem.
The study by Christopher Jones and Daniel Kammen from the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) of the University of California in Berkeley, has a mouthful of a title: "Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S." They looked at 28 communities across the country and found varying results, but in general, the there are some good rules of thumb. Jones is interviewed in Smart Planet:
What do you suggest people do to reduce their carbon footprint effectively?
Transportation - Choosing which vehicle you're going to drive is often the single largest emission reduction you can make. It's the single greatest opportunity. [The typical home with two vehicles will] produce about 10 tons of CO2. Going from 20 miles per gallon to 40 miles per gallon, you can cut that in half. In California, that's equivalent to putting solar panels on your house.
Location - Choosing where you live is also important, [especially] how far you have to drive to get to where you need to go.
Food - Americans purchase about a third more food than they eat. They eat about 25 percent more calories than they need for a healthy lifestyle.
Energy - There are a number of small actions we can take that will lead to emission reduction. Households can hire a professional to do an energy audit. It becomes cost effective. We spend a lot of money on energy.
In the UC Berkeley Newsletter, Jones says "Everyone has a unique carbon footprint, There is no one-size-fits-all set of actions that people should take." But one thing pops out clearly: Transportation and location are the two biggest contributors to our problems, and are two sides of the same coin. Even in the housing column, location is a factor; a big chunk of that electricity is going to power the air conditioning in sunbelt sprawl houses.
But since conditions do differ around the country, the authors have developed a sophisticated carbon calculator that takes a lot of variables into account, from diet to housing to transportation, to encourage "a larger range of individual and household behavior changes." But wherever people are in America, the big deals are transportation and housing: Driving our cars to our big suburban houses.
How many studies do we have to have before we accept the obvious answer: We have to stop sprawl, encourage walking and cycling, and get people out of their cars.
More at the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory
More on Location, Transportation and Energy:
EPA Study Finds Where You Live Matters More Than How You Live
Is Energy Consumption The Only Thing That Matters In Green Building?
Minus Oil: Forget Hybrids And Solar Panels, We Need Active, Exciting and Vibrant Cities