Tag Archives: fuel economy

The Best Way to Cut Your Emissions is to Stop Driving and Start Biking

Depending upon how you calculate the numbers transportation is now the greatest source of emissions in the United States:

Transportation Emissions

No matter the degree to which we decarbonize are electric grid the effort will be for naught if we do not begin to address the emissions that are a result of our transportation choices.  Transportation emissions come from a lot of sources—personal automobiles, delivery vehicles, mass transit, etc.  The most direct control that we have over transportation emissions is to control how much we drive personal automobiles.  If we do not drive our vehicles do not produce emissions.  It is a fairly simple calculus.

A gallon of gasoline produces approximately 20 pounds of carbon dioxide when combusted. The average fuel economy for a new car is 23.4 miles per gallon.   Simple math gives you 0.85 pounds of carbon dioxide produced for each mile driven.  Considering that the U.S. is such a truck/SUV/crossover/whatever market I am going to round that up to one pound of carbon dioxide produced for every one mile driven.

Do not drive a mile, save a pound.  It is a direct, one-for-one relationship in my mind and it makes for a fairly simple accounting of progress.

The average American drivers puts 13,474 miles per year in behind the wheel or, according to my simple math, creates 13,474 pounds of carbon dioxide via combustion to drive.  That is a lot of carbon dioxide.  To put it into comparison, the solar array on my home that went active last August is calculated to have saved approximately 3,350 pounds of carbon dioxide in just over seven months.  If the average driver reduced miles driven by approximately 25% the savings would be roughly the same.  This is why we have to address our addiction to fossil fuels in the transportation sector in order to have any significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and arresting climate change.

My goal for the next nine months is to drive less than 2,500 miles in total.  Why 2,500 miles?  It’s the length of time, in miles, until my next oil change.  Why nine months?  It’s the length of time, in months, before my next trip to Colorado. Everything seemed to line up in such a way to make this an easy target to measure and understand.  This would also put me on pace to drive approximately 5,000 miles per year including regular trips to Colorado.

A goal of 5,000 miles per year or less would mean a reduction of almost 63% versus the average American driver and a similar reduction in carbon emissions.  Now imagine a world where the United States reduced its emissions from transportation by 63%.  Wow.

It is not just a story about emissions.  Personal automobiles are expensive.  Most people do not realize the full costs of driving in a way that is easily quantified.  You could spend a lot of time calculating the actual cost per mile of driving for your particular situation or you could just let the IRS do the leg work.  For 2017 the IRS has set the “mileage rate” at 53.5 cents per mile.

In my particular case nine months of driving will cost $1338.  However, every trip to work that I replace with a bicycle trip will save me $6.  Greenhouse gas emissions are hard to imagine.  Six dollars in my pocket every time I decide to commute to work on the dirt wagon is concrete.  Somewhere along the way I am going to translate these savings into a Chris King headset for my bike.

I anticipate a degree of failure, but I feel that I will make little progress toward an ambitious goal unless I make some sort of public proclamation.

Friday Linkage 12/12/2014

Have you seen the storm bearing down on Northern California and the Pacific Northwest? Strange weather in that region, particularly California, reminds me of Marc Reisner’s thoughts on the instability of the region’s hydrology. Why would anyone choose to build so much infrastructure and plant so many people in an area with such instability? It’s beyond me.

On to the links…

Fate Of The Struggling Greater Sage Grouse Shaping Energy Development In U.S. West—The fight over the listing of the greater sage grouse is shaping up to be the spotted owl of the 21st century. If you do not think so take a look at what Congress is doing in the abomination of a spending bill winding its way through the halls of government.

After Steep Decline, Signs of Hope for World’s Sea Turtles—People just love sea turtles. It is good to see that this group of animals is showing some signs of population recovery due to the efforts of a lot of people worldwide. Keep on trucking little honus.

US Fuel Economy Average Down for the First Time in Four Years—Gas prices drop on the back off a precipitous oil price drop and people clamor for extra large SUVs and trucks. Ugh.

Our E-Waste Problem Is Ridiculous, and Gadget Makers Aren’t Helping—Increasingly, integrated electronics with small embedded components are harder and harder to recycle. What could once be pried off a board and reused or upgraded is not only recoverable through means like melting or acid leaching. It’s nasty stuff.

Narendra Modi, Favoring Growth in India, Pares Back Environmental Rules—Development seems to always win. In India it appears like the prevailing attitude is going to be “we’ll clean things up later.”

India’s Largest Power Generator Signs Deal For 375 MW Solar Power Plant—For every bad story coming out of India there are at least half a dozen highlighting the progress being made. I hope the trend of one step back for every five forward can continue for a while.

Softbank May Finance 10,000 MW Solar Power Capacity In Indian State—Development may be winning, but the development of clean power is moving forward at a pretty good pace as well.

Far More Americans Trust EPA Over Congress To Set Pollution Standards—Does anyone trust Congress to do anything?

As Coal Crashes, US Governors Push Wind Energy—As fewer and fewer people work in extractive industries like coal, whether that is due to increased mechanization or reduced demand, governors are forced to face the reality of green jobs expansion. Wind is good for the environment and good for the economy.

Grassroots Anti-Coal Movements to Watch—There is a burgeoning worldwide sentiment that coal is the fuel of the past and needs to be retired. No amount of astroturf pro-coal groups can compete with the growing calls for the end of coal.

US Sees Second-Largest Solar Installation Growth In Q3—Third quarter 2014 solar installations were up 41% over the same period of time in the prior year. If the same trend continues for the fourth quarter then it will result in a lot of solar.

Tweaking Thermostats In Boston Would Save Energy Equivalent To 17,000 Fewer Cars On The Road—There is a huge potential for energy savings in changing our behaviors and tweaking the settings of our energy using devices. Think about what we could save if everyone, nationwide, made a concerted effort to save energy. It would be amazing.

Is The Food Babe A Fearmonger? Scientists Are Speaking Out—There was going to be a backlash against Vani Hari, but I wonder how much of it is centered on her premise of certain food additives being mysterious and potentially harmful. At the end of the day we need to be suspicious of anyone who stands to make money from fearmongering—as Vani Hari does with her books—but it does not mean she is wrong.

Hoping to Change the Industry, a Factory Farmer Opens His Barn Doors—This is an act of economic bravery not commonly seen among the farmers under the thumb of massive agribusiness corporations. It will be very interesting to see how the industry responds to Craig Watts’ bravery.

What is driving deforestation and what can you do about it?—What actions do you take that contribute to deforestation:


Friday Linkage 2/14/2014

During the winter residents of the Midwest who have lived here more than a few years are pretty stoic about the cold and snow.  This winter, with its epic cold snaps and constant moisture events, have made people look toward days where the temperatures sneak above 32 degrees Fahrenheit with a hunger bordering on salacious.

Next week’s anticipated temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit will feel downright tropical.

On to the links…

Sustainable Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough Raises Hopes for Ultimate Green Energy—Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of green energy development and would alter the face of the world if it could be made to work at a scale that was economical.  Every step forward toward that goal is important, even if it is incremental at best.

Company Has Yet To Stop Leaks That Have Been Spilling Tar Sands In Alberta For 9 Months—Do you want to know what the future looks like if we fully exploit Canadian tar sands?  Look no further than this leak in Alberta that has been occurring for the past nine months.  Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. should be ashamed but they will probably just use it as an excuse to push for more development in some twisted logic that only an oil man would understand.

Pipe Break At Coal Facility Contaminates West Virginia Waterway—Can’t West Virginia catch a break.  Not when your state is owned by coal interests.  It looks like Patriot Coal, the spinoff of everyone’s favorite coal villain Peabody Coal, is responsible this time.  The company will find a way to weasel out of paying any damages.

6 Ways Ted Cruz Wants To Increase Carbon Pollution, All In One Bill—Ted Cruz is really swinging for the fences as he attempts to position himself as the presumptive wingnut nominee for President of the United States.  Please run.  It could be worse, we could be hearing from Rick Santorum.

U.S. Average Fuel Economy Increases In January—Not all U.S. energy news was bad this week.  Fleetwide U.S. fuel economy increased to 24.9 miles per gallon in January 2014.  The surprising part of the statistic is that “green” cars like hybrids and EVs actually saw sales fall, but high mileage traditional engine cars made up for the decline with marked improvement in fuel economy.

Wind of Change Sweeps Through Energy Policy in the Caribbean—Aruba was spending close to 16% of its annual income on fuel imported from outside the country.  By 2020, the island nation hopes to be free of fossil fuel imports.  If a small island nation can commit to the transition why can’t more countries?

India Wants To Switch 26 Million Water Pumps To Solar Power Instead Of Diesel—We all love the idea of rooftops covered in solar panels, but there so many applications for solar that do not involve residential electricity.  What is the market for 26 million systems look like?

Interactive Map Shows 47,000 Onshore Wind Turbines in U.S.—Maps are cool.  Maps that show wind turbines are really cool.

California has One-Third of Nation’s Solar Jobs—This is not surprising given the scale of California’s solar programs and companies like SolarCity being established in the state.  It also gives hopes to other states that have great solar resources to exploit in experiencing job growth associated with a new industry.

I Spent 28 Hours on a Bus. I Loved It.—Meteorologist Eric Holthaus decided to reduce his personal carbon footprint.  The most significant single driver that he could impact was to cut out flying.  Read about trying to travel long distances in this country without using air travel.

14 Food Waste Facts That Will Make You Want to Change the World—One of the easiest changes that we can make on a personal level to reduce our carbon footprint is to stop wasting food.  The statistics about food waste are kind of mind bending.

7 Things Republicans Would Be Shocked to Learn About Ronald Reagan—For most Republicans Ronald Reagan stands atop the their personal Mount Rushmore even though a lot of his actions in office run counter to their current crop of ideals.  Taxes?  He raised them.  Illegal immigrants?  Amnesty.  Guns?  Regulated.  Tear down this myth already.

Amid Elephant Slaughter, Ivory Trade in U.S. Continues—Yes, the idea is that the ivory predates rules about the traffic in illegal ivory but it is impossible to enforce.  There should be a complete ban on the sale of ivory goods in the U.S.  Plain and simple.

Camels Had No Business in Genesis—One can never make the “Bible is literal” crowd believe because their default retort is impossible to assail even as it is the most asinine belief system in the world.  Science is just a lie to these people.  What amazes me, however, is how prominent many of these whack jobs have become.

Friday Linkage 3/22/2013

It’s officially spring, but the temperature was in the low teens last night so there was no real euphoria for the arrival.  Maybe that damn Easter bunny will bring more spring time feel in a week.

On to the links…

Who Put These Agribiz-Friendly Riders into This Unrelated Bill?—The U.S. Congress really does yeoman’s work when it comes to carrying industrial agriculture’s water.  Because the companies behind so much of our food do so many despicable things the solution has become to criminalize the exposure of the bad behavior rather than stopping the bad behavior.  That’s logic in the halls of government.

Clean Energy Future is All About Deployment—The technologies exist today to displace traditional carbon based power sources with clean renewables at an even cost basis.  Now, to decarbonize our economy we need to deploy those technologies in massive ways.

Xcel hits Upper Midwest Wind Power Record—Talk about deployment.  Normally, Xcel gets about 12 percent of its power from wind sources but on a steady, windy night in November it hit one third.  And the utility is putting more wind power online.  Why aren’t we talking about renewable energy targets closer to 50% now that we can see utilities regularly getting more than 20%?

Los Angeles to be Coal Free—The Department of Water and Power in Los Angeles is moving to end its power purchasing relationship with a massive coal fired plant in Arizona and is moving to convert a plant in Utah to natural gas.  The move is expected to be complete by 2025.  It’s two years sooner than the mandated 2027.

China’s Wind Power Production Increased More than Coal for the First Time Ever in 2012—Even China is beginning to deploy renewables on a scale that is measurable against its traditional power sources.  “Big thinkers” always talk about the China or India price being the tipping point for new technologies.  Guess what?  For renewables that tipping point is passed.

Algae Blooms Threaten Lake Erie—I will never forget reading stories about the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catching fire in the 1970s.  It is one of those things as a kid that you just cannot believe.  The water was on fire?  Algae blooms seem so benign by comparison, but pose a clear and present danger to the health of our waters.

Bacteria may Provide More Sustainable Biofuel Production—Every day seems to bring a story about incremental improvements in the fundamental technologies behind turning woody biomass into biofuel.  This could be a game changer.

Ethanol’s Days of Promise and Prosperity are Fading—It seems like a bad dream for the Midwest, but ethanol is proving to be a devil’s bargain yet again.  Following the first oil crisis in the 1970s, the industry boomed and then faded.  Again we are looking at it fading because the economics just do not make sense.  And the environmental case is specious at best for first generation biofuels.  Now, give me switchgrass ethanol and I will change my tune.

EPA Fuel Economy Report: Americans Vehicles Saw 1.4 MPG Jump Last Year—  Here’s another nail in first generation ethanol’s coffin.  We are using less fuel to transport ourselves in automobiles.

Old Monitors and TVs Proving to Be Recycling Nightmare—It looks like our conversion to flat screens of various sorts has not only destroyed the market for traditional CRT displays but also the market for the recycled glass from CRT displays.  So now millions of monitors are piling up in warehouses for want of demand.  The number that got me was the high side estimate of $360 million to recycle all of the glass responsibly.  For the cost of three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters we could erase this environmental problem?  Sounds like a deal to me.

The Ins and Outs of Recycling—Did you think I would not include at least one infographic this week?  This one lays out the numbers behind recycling:


10 Food Related Infogrpahics, Charts, and Flowcharts—If one infographic is good, then 10 must be even better.  Right?

Friday Linkage 11/9/2012

I am back from Orlando,  Barack Obama won reelection, Mitt Romney is unemployed, Joe Walsh is still a dick but at least he’s also looking at the unemployment line, and weed is legal in two more states.  What a week.

On to the links…

The Great Transition—Lester Brown has written a thought provoking series of commentaries about the potential for a “great transition” away from fossil fuels.  Check out part one and part two.

How the EPA Does and Does not Test Fuel Economy—The recent case of Hyundai, including the Kia brand which it owns, of having to reimburse customers for misleading or false mileage claims brought to light a lot of odd practices with regard to the testing of a car’s mileage.

How NYU Stayed Partly Warm and Lighted—I am hoping that the current disaster in the northeast United States a result of post tropical cyclone Sandy and the subsequent northeaster start a conversation about utility resilience.  I thought the same thing might happen after Hurricane Katrina with regard to coastal infrastructure, but I see where that went.

Geothermal Advocates Hope Sandy Gives them a Second Look—Apparently, the advocates of geothermal heating and cooling think the recent disaster is going to be a boon for business.  Again, I think we will choose the cheap and easy solution rather than really thinking about the resiliency of our systems.

Bicycles are Transportation’s Cockroaches—I have always hated scenes in post-apocalyptic scenarios where everyone is suddenly a horse lord.  Why?  Because no one really knows how to ride a horse and there are really not enough horses, but there are a lot of bicycles.  Cheap, reliable, and powered by the rider it is the ultimate option for when the stuff hits the fan.  Imagine what fleets of longtail and cargo bikes could do in the wake of a disaster?

Climate Change May Lead to Wild Arabica Bean Extinction—Climate change and its attendant consequences are usually not at the forefront of people’s minds, but threaten their morning coffee and you will get people’s attention.  Just let them taste a few cups of Robusta coffee and you will have climate change warriors on your hands.

Solving Hawaii’s Fresh Vegetable Problem—You would think that Hawaii would be a wonderland for fresh vegetables.  Visit one of the excellent farmer’s markets and you would agree, but the reality is that there is an access problem for a lot of the people on the islands.  What this speaks to is that the problem with our food system is often not growing enough but being able to distribute that bounty equitably.

Make Your Own Leaf Mold—Leaf mold is one of those things that every person should be making in their garden to improve soil health.  It should be a government mandate.

Friday Linkage 3/16/2012

You have to love James Inhofe.  The guy is a master of delusion.  When the weather is unseasonably cool or the snows flies in Washington D.C. the man is building an igloo and all over Fox News.  But when it is unbearably hot in his own state for weeks on end and the drought in unceasing the man is nowhere to be seen.

Then Inhofe goes on the Rachel Maddow show and says he believed in global warming until he learned how much mitigation would cost.  Huh?  The cost of mitigation does not impact the reality of the problem.  Unrelated.  Completely.

It’s not like modern day Republicans ever let things like logic, reason, or science get in the way of trying to win elections.  Clowns.

On to the links…

Appetite for  Shark Fins Behind Decline of Blue Sharks—It looks like fisherman taking advantage of a globalized market for shark fins are decimating the population of blue sharks in waters off the coast of the United Kingdom in order to sell shark fins in Asia.  This practice is responsible for declines of up to 80% from the 1980s of certain shark species.  Nothing like destroying whole ecosystems so someone’s wedding in China can have a gelatinous soup.

Coal Powers Less than 40% of U.S. Electricity—As a share of total electricity generation, coal is now less than 40% of the U.S. total which is the lowest such percentage since 1978:


I would be curious to see a graph of total electrical generation and the percentage mix of generating sources.  An idea for a future post…

Grease Thieves—Every time the price of gasoline starts tickling some psychological barrier—now $4 per gallon when it used to be $3 per gallon—there are stories about people stealing grease to make biodiesel.  At the end of the day, I would venture to guess that the majority of this stuff is still no disposed of properly in communities across the United States.  Sure, progressive places like San Francisco or Hawaii are taking steps but what about Atlanta or Buffalo?

U.S. New Car Fuel Economy Hits New High in February 2012—The average fuel economy of a new vehicle sold in the U.S. is 23.7 miles per gallon.  In the past four years the average number has risen 16%.  Not too shabby.  Some car makers do better than others:













































































































































Land Rover




The numbers above, as tracked by TrueCar TrueMPG, show the brand specific fuel economy of new cars sold in February 2011 and 2012.

Minnesota Could be 100% Renewable at No Extra Cost—For anyone who has spent a winter being blown to shreds by the constant wind blowing across the state of Minnesota this comes as no surprise.  Okay, maybe it is a little surprising that an entire state could be powered by wind and solar with no additional costs to ratepayers.  Oh wait, efficiency also gets mentioned.  It’s not like I would trust these guys to push the issue.

Clean Energy Critics Cannot do Math—Does it come as any surprise that the people who criticize clean energy or energy efficiency programs cannot do math?  It should not because the math does not support their claims, so they invent new models with wild ass assumptions.  Using $0.01 as the average price of retail electricity?  I want to live in that rate market.  You gotta’ love it when people are just stupid.

The Latest Attack on Cycling Advocacy—This story is unbelievable, except for the fact that it happens all the time.  Cyclists are often treated like second class citizens vis a vis car owners, are viewed as some kind of sub-human socialist, and harassed by law enforcement to a degree greater than most car operators.  This story from Ohio just shows the lengths that people who dislike bicycles will go.  How many people have made suggestions for changes to the auto infrastructure—lights, stop signs, roundabouts, speed limit changes—without being branded “unlicensed engineers” by some revenge obsessed former civil servant with an axe to grind?  Waiting….

Food Delivery in NYC—This is one of those vignettes that makes one stop and think for a moment about the people who make our modern world work.  How many people think about the struggles on a daily basis of the people who deliver food?  Not very many I imagine because the delivery people are often faceless, nameless immigrants on the bottom rung of the U.S. economic ladder.

Publix Humiliation—Talk about another segment of the population that almost no one thinks about when reaching for a plastic crate of grape tomatoes at the grocery store.  Farmworkers who pick tomatoes in Florida live and work in conditions that are hard to describe accurately.  Suffice it to say, the conditions are barbaric and companies who buy produce from the companies that participate in such a medieval system should be condemned as modern day facilitators of economic, if not outright, slavery.  This is something familiar to anyone who has taken the time to read Barry Estabrook’s excellent book Tomatoland.

Wolverine Weekend—This seems like a natural marriage of enthusiasts and scientists that should have been going on for years, but it seems to be something new.  Wonder why?

Technology for Tall Wooden Buildings Given Away—The technology of tall wooden buildings is progressing steadily.  Whereas this type of structure would have been unthinkable a decade ago, Waugh Thiselton’s CLT building in London is nine stories tall.  Wood makes a wonderful building material compared to its competitors, especially when grown and harvested in a sustainable manner.  As the world moves to a more dense urban future, buildings will be forced to go vertical and wood has a place in that discussion.  Plus, how many other materials can make such a beautiful building as this library in Vennesla, Norway?