According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the US are:
• Electricity production (31% of 2013 GHG emissions), mostly from burning fossil fuels, especially coal and natural gas.
• Transportation (27% of 2013 GHG emissions), primarily from burning fossil fuel for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes.
• Industry (21% of 2013 GHG emissions), mostly from fossil fuels for energy and GHG emissions from chemical reactions necessary to produce some goods.
• Commercial and Residential (12% of 2013 GHG emissions), such as from heating and air conditioning.
• Agriculture (9% of 2013 greenhouse gas emissions), such as GHS emissions from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils, and rice production.
• Land Use and Forestry (offset of 13% of 2013 GHG emissions) - Land areas can absorb or release green house gases. Since 1990, managed forests and other lands in the US have absorbed more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit.
There you have it. My goal is to explore ways to reduce GHG emissions in each of the above sectors by a whole bunch.
Electricity generation is the biggest culprit. Options for reducing emissions include more solar/wind/nuclear and better carbon capture. Development of “clean coal” technologies will also be important. Remember: the perfect is the enemy of the good.
Reducing demand for electricity would also reduce power plant emissions. And since reducing demand has mostly to do with industrial, commercial and residentialusage, the EPA categories are clearly not independent of each other. Here we’re mostly talking about increasing energy efficiency and reducing consumption. Solar will be part of the mix but I’m ambivalent about biofuels – at least at the current state of biofuel technology. As a rule, anything that leads to significant expansion of agricultural land at the expense of wild habitat should be avoided.
Demand for electricity would also go down if more of the population moved to milder climates, away from those long, cold winters. It would help further if more of us moved to bigger cities, which are associated with lower energy consumption due to smaller living units and the prevalence of multiple-unit residences (e.g., apartment buildings). Another plus of urbanization is that urban residents drive much less than their rural and suburban counterparts.
Speaking of transportation, that’s next.