I got fired up to write this article because of hippies. I think they are a frequent source of inspiration for us on this blog. In essence, I was reading a forum and as usual someone has to complain about people driving and that you should just move closer to work and bike. We'll that is great if you can do that, but it is obviously not a solution for everyone. (I am not going to get into the details here but... cost of living, city life, raising kids are good reasons.)
This example wasn't the entirety of my frustration. This kind of mindset is typical of the now more popular casual environmentalist claiming that individuals need to make drastic changes to their lifestyle (possible significantly detrimental ones) in the name of the environment. I think this kind of argument is bound to fail. Individuals will not change make significant changes easily, especially if they are going to inconvenience themselves. Instead, what should the environmentalist ask:
Can we create a global system which has the advantages of our current system without the pollution? How do we accomplish this? What technologies need to mature? What is the impact on the economy or the average joe's wallet? (it needs to be minimal, preferably create a system which makes money) How are we going to address growing energy demands?
If they maintained this attitude (an engineering approach to the problem - maybe they could actually get involved in the engineering and science themselves) they might make more significant changes. This is the point - the environmentalists agenda will not be fulfilled by making everyone feel guilty, instead it will happen if people can make money at it. This is only going to happen if technological advances allow it. Simple, science + money = solution, that is how you change the world.
Somewhere in the middle of this all I was researching carbon dioxide release from several energy sources. People have a tendency to blindly trust what they have been told. I asked myself, how much CO2 is created while driving a car vs. consuming electricity? Here are the numbers. A gallon of gasoline produces around 20 lbs of CO2. That may seem odd, since a gallon of gas only weighs about 6 lbs, but it is mostly carbon and it combines with oxygen from the atmosphere. O2 is much heavier than Carbon. Thus, heavier CO2.
On the other hand, a coal plant might produce around 2 lbs of CO2 per kWh. To put this in perspective lets say a home is using 11000 kWh/year. (An average value) This equates to around 22,000 lbs of Co2/year (if they ran off a coal plant) or maybe as low as 10,000 lbs of CO2. (if they have other combustion energy sources, natural gas, etc) This is equivalent to 500 to 1100 gallons of gasoline per year or 1.36 to 3.01 gallons per day. In a 30 mpg vehicle this equates to 40 to 90 miles of driving per day.
Thus, a 20-45 mile commute to work (everyday) in a vehicle with a reasonable gas mileage will produce about as much CO2 as a typical home.
I like numbers.
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