As a newly published research project published by the Urban Land Institute points out, improving vehicle efficiency alone won’t make a dent in the United States’ role in global warming.
In fact, living in a green neighborhood represents a similar reduction in emissions as buying the most efficient hybrid car and living in a typical suburb. Of course the best solution is to drive a super-efficient car and to drive less.
[The authors] warn that if sprawling development continues to fuel growth in driving, the projected 59 percent increase in the total miles driven between 2005 and 2030 will overwhelm expected gains from vehicle efficiency and low-carbon fuels. Even if the most stringent fuel-efficiency proposals under consideration are enacted, notes co-author Steve Winkelman, “vehicle emissions still would be 40 percent above 1990 levels in 2030 – entirely off-track from reductions of 60-80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 required for climate protection.”
The study advocates a “three-legged stool” approach to reducing CO2: improving fuel efficiency, reducing the carbon content of the fuel itself, and reducing the amount of driving. According to lead author Reid Ewing, “the research shows that one of the best ways to reduce vehicle travel is to build places where people can accomplish more with less driving.”
The book finds that the amount Americans drive has grown three times faster than the U.S. population since 1980. This increase in miles driven negates any improvement we might make in fuel economy. Urban sprawl is the culprit, and well thought out communities are the solution.
From Growing Cooler:
Americans drive so much because we have given ourselves little alternative. For 60 years, we have built homes ever farther from workplaces, created schools inaccessible except by motor vehicle, and isolated other destinations – such as shopping – from work and home. From World War II until very recently, nearly all development has been planned and built on the assumption that people will use cars virtually every time they travel.
Photo by tlindenbaum
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