Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Well, What Do You Know

I was doing some research on Amsterdam for a presentation on sustainable cities, and somehow I came across this article in the Economist. Without being able to examine the Brooking's Institution's methodology, I'm a little suspicious, but frankly it doesn't surprise me as much as it probably surprises others that Los Angeles came out fairly green.

The authors make a good point that the weather works to LA's advantage. If you remember, I went without both heat and a/c for a whole year in LA with no problems whatsoever. Obviously most people are turning on their heat and a/c a little, but you need surprisingly little of either in LA. The coastal breezes keep things cool in the summer, and the desert climate means that the temperature drops substantially at night.

As for the length of commute, anecdotally I think it's probably true that a good number of Angelenos don't actually commute that far. I commuted about 10 miles a day to my job, and that is, I think, fairly average.

Like I said, without looking at the Brooking's report myself, I can't really critique their methodology ... excluding industry is also a problem, and given LA's aviation industry, that would probably make LA's numbers worse. But I imagine the report also ignored average food miles, which would probably work to LA's benefit.

Hmmmm ... I may have to move back to Los Angeles after all. :)

6 comments:

EcoBurban said...

I just got back from Frankfurt, where I spend a lot of time each year. It's certainly not the most sustainable city, there are quite a lot of cars, but the public transportation is such a marvel to me. Coming from Detroit (where it does NOT exist) I am a kid in a candy store. I ride the S-Bahn, the U-Bahn and this time took an IC train out of the city for the day to Heidelberg and then took the bus around the city. What a great way to live! Even after working a long day, I am always so thrilled to jump on the train to go somewhere - even if it's just across town to grab dinner. The entire week I was gone I only took a cab twice - even though I was on the company dime. The rest of the week I walked, rode trains, busses or shuttles - and I had a great time. I am soooo envious of that lifestyle...

Anonymous said...

But should aviation industry be counted where the planes were made or were they are used? This is an problem that shows up in lots of studies. It tends to make third world counties look worse, since many of the goods they produce are made for Europe and NA. I think the emissions accounting should be moved to point of use.

EJ

ruchi said...

Good point, EJ. But either way, if aviation was counted at point of use, or the point of production, it would probably still have a negative impact on LA's emissions seeing as there's also a lot of use of flights there. ;)

Will said...

You can look at the Brookings report online. It's a pretty interesting read, although it only looks at the 100 biggest cities in the US.

In addition to weather, the authors think that high electrical prices (and the generallly clean source of that electricity) help LA.

I find it interesting that the basic conclusion of the report is that metro areas need to focus more on reducing carbon output, but the Economist article uses it as an excuse to cheer for LA.

ruchi said...

Hey thanks, Will!! I look forward to reading it!! :)

Tanya Seaman said...

I was also confused by this, but in doing carbon footprint comparisons with someone who lives in northern California, I realized that even though her house is larger, she drives a car, and takes more flights than I do, her footprint is similar to mine, in Philadelphia. It's definitely about the climate and energy production.