Congratulations to America: Huge Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction

Congratulations to America. According to the US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were reduced 526 million tons from 2005 to 2011. This is no small amount. It is about the same as all the CO2 emissions in either Canada or the United Kingdom. Only five other nations emit more than that.

The bigger news is that this was accomplished without any of the intrusive behavioral modification proposed by planners, such as by California's anti-detached housing restrictions, Plan Maryland, or the state of Washington's mandatory driving reduction program.

Of course, part of the national reduction was due to the economic difficulties since 2005. However, even with 1.8 percent gross domestic product growth in 2011, EIA shows that CO2 emissions fell 2.4 percent in 2011.

The magnitude of the decline over six years is impressive. Actual GHG/CO2 emissions were reduced more annually between 2005 and 2011 than smart growth proponents claim for their strategies after 45 years of draconian policy intrusions.Modeled smart growth forecasts in Moving Cooler's middle scenario (by Cambridge Systematics and the Urban Land Institute) show the annual GHG/CO2 emission reduction in 2050, calculated from 2005, to be less than the emissions reduction in the average year between 2005 and 2011.

This is despite what would be four decades of trying to force people to live where they don't want, in housing they don't prefer, while trying to drive them out of the cars that required to sustain economic growth in modern metropolitan areas.

Moving Cooler's forced densification and anti-automobile strategies were so radical that the Transportation Research Board authors of Driving and the Built Environment, could not agree that a similar approach was feasible, because it would be prevented by public resistance to the personal and political intrusions (Note 1). They would also be hideously expensive, as the Moving Cooler authors ignored the much higher costs of housing associated with smart growth's behavioral strategies.

This comparison demonstrates the conclusion of a recent Cambridge University (United Kingdom) led study (see "Questioning the Messianic Conception of Smart Growth", which stated:

In many cases, the potential socioeconomic consequences of less housing choice, crowding, and congestion may outweigh its very modest CO2 reduction benefits.

Government policies have had little to do with the reductions, except to the extent that they precipitated the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression (such as by encouraging loose lending standards and the smart growth housing policies that drove house prices up so much that the housing bust became inevitable).

Market forces have made a substantial contribution to the reduction. There was a substantial shift to the use of natural gas from coal, a conversion that is really only starting. There was also a modest improvement in automobile fuel efficiency (though much more is to come).

In 2007, the McKinsey Corporation and The Conference Board published a study (co-sponsored by the Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council), which said that sufficient GHG emissions reductions (Note 2) could be achieved without driving less or living in more dense housing. Our more recent Reason Foundation report showed that the potential for GHG emission reduction from more fuel efficient cars and carbon neutral housing far outweighed any potential for reductions from smart growth's behavior modification.


Note 1: Transport consultant Alan E. Pisarski evaluated Moving Cooler in an article entitled ULI Moving Cooler Report: Greenhouse Gases, Exaggerations and Misdirections.

Note 2: Most of GHG emissions are CO2.

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But like many, non-global

But like many, non-global Midwestern cities, Indianapolis will have to make choices and compromises. In so doing, it will pursue a strategy that’s different from other places, and those differences won’t appeal to all. the venus factor

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This trend is the natural one anyway

Jesse Ausubel of the Rockefeller Institute is the author of several good papers on "the de-carbonisation of the global economy". Ausubel is a "systems analyst". He has long claimed that the global economy's trend is to lower and lower carbon-intensity even without policy intervention. On the long TREND, emissions would reduce to close to zero anyway in as little as a few decades.

But Gwyn Prins and John Rayner (of the London School of Economics) in a paper entitled "The Wrong Trousers: Rethinking Climate Policy", claim that Kyoto style policy interventions have had the "unintended consequence" of REDUCING the trend to lower carbon intensity because economic activity has been displaced from more advanced economies to less advanced ones.

F A Hayek, the original "unintended consequences" economics writer, must be having a chuckle up in economist heaven.

To reinforce the trend

While the absolute amount of energy involved has increased carbon intensity has decreased in the last 150 years. Wood is even more carbon intensive than coal, coal more carbon intensive than oil and oil than gas. I first heard this message from Stan Ovshinsky at Energy Conversion Devices in about 1998. Even back in 1976 when I went to work for the research lab of a major oil company I was told there was lots of gas, but even the optimists could not have guessed how much. (Although wood tended to be renewable over a long term (not so much in the 19th century but later).

Consumer Demand for Half Acre Lots and Long Resort Vacations

Trying to design subdivisions for high density, transit oriented developments (smart growth) is an insult to the design process itself. Architectural design is both an art and a science. However, it's predominately (in my view) an art, since people choose where they want to live based mostly on emotional factors. For example, people don't want to live in towering 5 story "smart growth" condos next to screeching light rail trains. Instead, they prefer a half acre with a private yard in the suburbs, next to large parks with biking trails. Fewer otherwise talented folks will enter the architectural and planning professions, knowing that they must comply with state mandated high density standards ... that make it impossible to use one's creative process to design spacious, green suburbs ... since the new standards require clearcutting all trees and building 30 three story townhomes per acre with no yards.

Second, trying to reduce VMT's (vehicle miles traveled) through compact urban design (smart growth) primarily considers trips from home to work. This process fails to consider other trips, such as to stores, schools, religious activities, and the longest trips ... vacations. For example, in coastal California in the Bay Area, folks drive hundreds of miles to Reno, Lake Tahoe, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and Ashland, OR, and also Bend, Oregon. And, they fly to Palm Springs and Scottsdale in winter, producing even more greenhouse gases.

Likewise, in Denver, and nearby Boulder, folks drive to Colorado ski resorts such as Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, and Durango, and also ski in Taos, New Mexico.