March 18, 2006

Cleaning Up Our Carbon Emissions

Americans are large contributors to global warming because much of our life style is built on top of a dependence on carbon emissions. So what can we as individuals do? The answer to this question is: quite a lot. My local Sierra Club chapter (Loma Prieta) recently joined up with Acterra and 3 Phases Energy (wind energy) to sponsor the COOL IT! program giving us the tools we can use to lower our emissions.

Cool It Campaign Logo

The COOL IT! program consists of three basic steps: emissions calculation, emissions reduction, and emissions offset. In the first step, individuals use the COOL IT! calculator to identify their personal CO2 emissions (e.g., transportation, home heating, and electricity). The seond step involves taking meaningful actions to reduce personal emisions (e.g., carpooling, driving a fuel efficient vehicle, purchasing energy efficient applicances and electrical equipment, weatherizing your home or apartment). Ideally, we would reduce our personal CO2 emissions to zero. Because that is not possibile, the third step provides for the purchase of "Green Tags" to offset excess emissions. By purchasing Green Tags individuals are supporting clean energy development and thereby offsetting their remaining emissions.

Source of Emissions Your CO2Annual Cost Monthly Cost
Car Travel 4813 $52.32 $4.36
Air Travel 12480 $135.65 $11.30
Electricity Use 861 $9.36 $0.78
Natural Gas Use 7025 $76.36 $6.36
Totals 25179 $273.69 $22.81

Here's what my CO2 audit looks like and what it costs me to offset my emissions by buying green tags.

Overall, my carbon emissions are greater than average because of my air travel
which I make up somewhat by driving a Prius. Nevertheless if I could substitute using wind power for my heating needs rather than using natural gas, I'd be doing much better. Hopefully by investing in more wind energy, I will be doing my part to helping reducing my impact on the earth.

So what's your carbon emissions footprint?

Posted by Mary at March 18, 2006 07:26 PM | Environment | Technorati links |

My CO2 profile looks very much like yours -- not much auto use, lots of flying.

I read the Cool It site and I read the Green-E FAQ about these "green tags" and I simply cannot figure out what good buying them does.

Are we being asked to subsidize green energy producers? That was the best I could make of it. That may not be wrong, but why don't they say so? I am completely serious in asking, can you explain the effect of the project more clearly?

Posted by: janinsanfran at March 23, 2006 05:31 PM

good question, jan. I think that is precisely what we are doing with the Cool-It program. When I was looking into energy and alternative energy issues earlier this month, I found that wind power is getting more and more competitive with other sources, but still it is more difficult to get funding to build wind-farms over types of energy generation. Since the government does very little subsidizing of wind power (currently 1.9 cents per KwH compared to massive bucks in nuclear subsidies), many funders are still reluctant to build wind farms rather than fund coal or natural gas or nuclear. We consumers can help change the equation by doing our own subsidies for technologies we believe are important. This is the same as having energy suppliers offer you renewable energy at a premium. But from what I've read, soon the equation will tip to wind power and other renewable energy sources because the other choices will become so prohibitive. I think the Cool-It program allows us to help accelerate the tipping point to making windpower a much more viable and cheaper source.

Posted by: Mary at March 23, 2006 11:35 PM

Thanks -- that is helpful. I wish those advocating this would simply tell us "government won't do it; we have to help green producers push alternative energy over the viability hump." Make it a campaign. I suppose there is a desire not to be "partisan" or "adversarial." But when one side is blatantly adversarial, denigrating green technology, you can't fight back by keeping your head down.

I read those sites and felt like I might be being scammed because there was a hidden agenda never properly explicated.

Posted by: janinsanfran at March 24, 2006 09:33 AM

Where does one buy green tags?

Posted by: Jigar Shah at March 28, 2006 09:02 AM