Wednesday, October 17, 2007

energy efficiency

From a report by the American Public Transportation Association:

"The research shows that when compared to other household actions that limit carbon dioxide (CO2,), taking public transportation can be more than ten times greater in reducing this harmful greenhouse gas. It takes one solo commuter of a household to switch their daily driving to using public transportation and he or she can reduce their household carbon footprint by 10 percent. If one household’s driver gives up that second car and switches to public transit, a household can reduce its carbon emissions up to 30 percent.

"'Encouraging use and expanding public transportation should be a part of our national strategy to address global climate change,' said James L. Oberstar, U.S. Congress (D-MN), chairman, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 'The report provides further evidence that public transportation is one of the most important tools to minimize carbon output, help the environment and assist the nation in achieving a sustainable transportation system.'

"'Congress has yet to have a serious, comprehensive debate about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change,' said Peter DeFazio, U.S. Congress (D-OR), subcommittee chairman, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 'As the APTA report shows, however, increasing use of public transportation will be central to the discussion about how to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, which is something that I will pursue as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.'

While it is very important to employ environmentally-friendly household activities, commuting by public transportation makes a more substantial impact. An individual switching to public transit can reduce their daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds; that’s more than 4,800 pounds in a year. This is far greater than the many actions people are being encouraged to take, for instance;

  • Home weatherizing and adjusting the thermostat for heating and cooling saves 2,847 pounds of carbon per year. Transit use saves almost twice the carbon.

  • Replacing five incandescent bulbs to lower wattage compact fluorescent lamps saves 445 pounds of CO2 per year. Transit use saves more than ten times the CO2.

  • Replacing an older refrigerator freezer with a high efficient one saves 335 pounds of CO2 per year. Taking public transportation saves more than fourteen times the carbon.

"'Public transportation use should be at the top of the list of ways for households to become greener,' said William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). 'Switching to public transit gives a person the opportunity to immediately become part of the solution to help reduce carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas.

"'Commuting by public transportation is one of the most significant actions a household member can take to reduce their carbon footprint,' Millar added.

"The research points out that due to increases in vehicle miles traveled, the problem of pollution from vehicle emissions is accelerating. Greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources have grown 27 percent from 1990 to 2004. Autos and light duty trucks represent about 61 percent of the total mobile source of greenhouse gas emissions. The report says single occupancy drivers switching their work commute to public transportation is one of the more effective ways to reduce the nation’s vehicle miles traveled while reducing harmful carbon dioxide.

"'While it is good public policy to require more fuel efficient automobiles, increasing the use of transit can have a more immediate impact on our nation’s transportation fuel consumption,' said Millar. 'It could take twenty to thirty years to see a complete turnover of the vehicle fleet. A household does not need to go to the expense of buying a new vehicle to make a difference; they can simply take advantage of the nation’s existing bus or rail services to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint.'"

I guess I can pat myself on the back: no central heating or air in my flat; haven't driven a car in over five years; no refrigerator; (for that matter no oven or clothes dryer, either)--so the only major things are light bulbs, computer, water heater (gas), stove, and low-capacity washing machine (no hot water).

1 comment:

Kiashu said...

The actual proportion you'd save by going public transport depends on where you get your household electricity from. On average around the developed world, people get that from coal-fired stations. The average Western household (2.5 people) has the following breakdown of emissions each week,

- burning 40lt petrol for 93kg CO2e
- using 200kWhr electricity from a coal-fired station producing 242kg CO2e
- using 740MJ natural gas with 40kg CO2e
- eating 6kg conventionally-farmed meat with 69kg CO2e
- eating 8kg conventionally-farmed grains with 32kg CO2e
- chucking 11kg rubbish which will make 44kg CO2e
- recycling 3kg stuff which will require energy to recycle, and 3kg CO2e
- for just about 500kg CO2e in all

It's good to know the actual amounts, because different groups with different biases and agendas give us these comparisons that stopping eating steak is like going from a Hummer to a hybrid, or whatever.

We can't really control how the sock factory down the road does things, or whether the Malaysians crack down on illegal logging, and so on. Looking at the things we can easily control in our own household, the above is what we find as the average household emissions.

How we get and how much we use our electricity turns out to be the single biggest thing, after that our transport, and about equal are our natural has use, whether we eat much meat, our rubbish and so on.

From this we get that transport's rather less than a third for most people, despite what your article said. Nonetheless, it's very significant, and despite the pained wailing of the average Aussie or Yank, quite easy to change.

I suspect your quoted article just considered domestic power and transport alone, without considering rubbish, food and so on.

You can get detailed figures here