Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Problem of Energy Use

Modern society rewards fossil fuel consumers with wealth, and penalizes those who don’t consume fossil fuels.

More than 5o% of natural gas and electricity and water is consumed by four communities in San Mateo County, Hillsborough, Woodside, Portola Valley, and Atherton, who make up .3% of the population of San Mateo County. Anecdotally these communities also make disproportionate use of the airport, a green house gas (GHG) generator that has no immediate fix; and drive most of the low mileage cars in the county.

In the Bay Area 50% of GHG comes from transportation mostly the private car. See page 17. This problem will worsen because Vehicle Miles Travelled is increasing. A roundtrip to the moon (RTM) is 477,736 miles. In 2000 in SMC we did 35 RTM. In 2015 we will average 39.

Walkable cities are the key to the GHG puzzle. In State of the World 2007: Worldwatch writes that cities cover 0.4 percent of the Earth’s surface but generate the bulk of world carbon emissions, making urban areas key to alleviating the climate crisis. More than 70% of GHG come from cities.

Molly O'Meara Sheehan writes in Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 2001, of the Department of Public Information that, "As cities grow to accommodate motor vehicles, they push built-up areas over forests and farmland, pave over watersheds, and invite accidents and pollution from ever-greater vehicle traffic. Various reports suggest that car-reliant cities not only damage the environment but also worsen social inequities and impede economic growth. As the world becomes more urban, a major challenge for societies will be to reorient current patterns of urban development away from car-dependent sprawl and towards walkable neighbourhoods connected by networks of bicycle paths, bus routes and railways."

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