Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

Bus Plan Backfires

May 26, 2007

bus.jpegThe saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In the case of my plan to combat global warming by taking the bus, the saying applies more literally than usual.

I looked into the fuel efficiency of mass transit buses and found some surprising data. According to the U.S. government’s 2005 Transportation Energy Data Book, buses use more energy on average per passenger mile than cars—even more than SUVs! These are actual averages, based on the average car load of 1.57 persons, and the average bus load of 8.7 passengers. If you look at the bus vs. a person driving a car alone, buses are more energy efficient—but not much (only about 34%).

This led me to an interesting paradox: my own efforts to take the bus will make a difference. I can measure my CO2 savings in pounds. However, if everybody took the bus, it wouldn’t help so much. The MBTA would react to increased ridership by adding routes and frequencies until they hit their target average load (whatever that is).

The bright side of the bus, if there is one, is that mass transit does good for society in ways other than reducing carbon emissions: it reduces congestion, and it provides transportation for people who cannot afford cars. However, for the sake of fuel efficiency, I am currently tuning up my bicycle.

Adventures on the Bus

May 24, 2007

mbta_bus.jpgBecause of global warming, I have been taking the bus as much as possible instead of driving. This gives me plenty of time to think about…what’s wrong with MBTA buses!

The Charlie Card system works great—except for people who don’t have them. As people board the bus, it takes just 2 seconds to pay a fare with a Charlie Card. Those paying with cash hold up the bus for as much as a minute while they fumble with their bills and try to get the machine to accept them. It is really annoying!

Can’t someone invent a bill acceptor that will take a crumpled up bill?

Carbon Footprint

January 5, 2007

chimney203.jpgYesterday, my neighbors goaded me into calculating my household’s “carbon footprint.” This is an estimate of the carbon dioxide emissions generated directly at the household level (based on utility bills, car mileage, etc.).

First, the bad news: my household spews out an estimated 22.35 tons of CO2 per year! And this does not even take into account the odd cord or two of firewood we burn in our wood stove. It also does not take into account any emissions by my office, my business travel, or the kids’ school.

And, in the good news/bad news department: our number is the lowest of all our neighborhood!

We used a calculator supplied by a local activist group. The group is calling upon each of us to compensate for our excessive energy consumption by buying “Carbon Offsets.” In order to become “carbon-neutral” and guilt-free, my suggested donation is $670.50 annually. If only all my sins could be atoned for so simply!

For a generic carbon footprint calculator that works in all regions of the country, see