Thursday, May 29, 2008

Milwaukeans Leave Lighter Carbon Footprint Than Madisonians, Data Show

I hear you sputtering: "Say *@**! what?"

Read on...

The Brookings Institution has ranked 100 US cities and regions according to their respective per-capita carbon footprints - - 2000--2005 data here - - that offers to people, businesses and governments an intriguing, and, at times, shocking comparison when measuring two major producers of pollution - - energy use and highway transportation.

Overall, Metropolitan Madison ranks close to the bottom, at 81st out of 100, with a combined transportation and energy per-capita annual emission of 2.914 tons of carbon, the data show.

Metropolitan Milwaukee (including Waukesha and West Allis), ranks substantially higher and better, at 44th, with the combined per-capita emission of carbon of 2.436 tons.

The per-capita national carbon emission output average was 2.60 tons - - so Milwaukee-area residents do better than peers across the country, and Madisonians do not.

Let's face it, Madison: you folks are putting about an extra half-ton of carbon into the air than your Wisconsin city neighbors to the east who live in the heart of the state's industrial base.

It does turn a stereotype upside down, doesn't it?

When you get into the nitty-gritty details, most comparisons tilt heavily to Milwaukee against Madison - - certainly a city that prides itself on a green mentality.

When looking at highway transportation overall, the comparison was lopsided again in Milwaukee's favor:

Madison, 87th, Milwaukee, 34th.

Truck emissions per resident ran in Milwaukee's favor, and when it came to residents' per-capita auto emissions, something we drivers can relate to, again it was no contest.

Madisonians emitted 1.353 tons per capita from autos, ranking 94th worst - - just six from the very bottom.

The Milwaukee auto number - - 1.038 tons, # 43.

Again: big numbers across-the board.

We all should be working hard to conserve and high gas prices are sure to help.

The residential energy usage numbers and rankings were essentially a draw:

Madison ranked 63rd overall - - four spots better than Milwaukee at 67 - - with carbon tonnage output per capita from electricity at 49th, and fuels, 69th.

Milwaukee's residential energy usage was 67th overall, with electricity usage ranking 51st (two spots worse than Madison), and fuels 67th (two better than Madison).

Frankly, I'm not sure why the numbers come in the way they do, but imagine how much improved the numbers would be if both cities had modern light rail and commuter rail lines, too.

Brooking says "substantial variation exists among these "carbon footprints" of metro areas, due in part to their development patterns, rail transit, freight traffic, carbon content of electricity sources, electricity prices, and weather."

So conclusions are hard to come by. Madison is wealthier per-capita than Milwaukee, but so is Waukesha folded into the Milwaukee data.

Milwaukee does have some rail (Amtrak), but more trucking, I believe.

It may be that Madisonians have a heavier foot on the gas pedal, and that the reformulated gasoline mandated in Milwaukee does burn cleaner, yet Milwaukee is still in a federal, non-attainment air quality area.



Wise cracks?

(Thanks to David Riemer for sending me to the Brookings charts today.)


Dave1 said...

Interesting numbers.

You are right about reformulated gasoline burning "cleaner". However, this is only with regards to conventional pollutants (i.e. things like SOx, Toxics, and VOCs). There really isn't any difference between conventional and reformulated gasoline (RFG)when it come to CO2 emissions.

I know this doesn't explain the Milwaukee / Madison difference, but it can't be blamed on the RFG.

Anonymous said...

My this is funny! Thanks for having a sense of humor for a change.

James Rowen said...

You really know how to hurt a guy, Anony.

Anonymous said...

Madison is a middle and upper class city. On average Madisonians can afford larger houses, cars, and carbon footprints.

Poor people have smaller carbon footprints. Milwaukee has a larger lower income population. Many don't own cars and live a more challenging but lower carbon life.

An ironic thought is that the Madisonians are probably much more willing to embrace strategies to curb global warming that will impact poor - lower carbon emitting - Milwaukeeians more adversely.

James Rowen said...

To Anonymous: I agree that there are class difference, but don't forget that Waukesha, a more wealthy community, is folded into the Milwaukee findings.

And that you'd think that Madison's housing stock would have energy-efficiences built-in or added, and newer, more fuel-efficient cars in the driveways, too.

Dave said...

The reason is that Madison is truly a sprawling city.