Energy hog

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. And environmental activists who live in big houses shouldn't be too quick to condemn others for their greenhouse gas emissions, a study finds.

A new study finds that energy conservation in a small number of households could go a long way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Their study, which measured differences in energy demands at the household level, appears in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers note that the energy people use to power their homes and to satisfy their mobility needs accounts for more than 70 percent of emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas involved in global climate change.

Supply side

Environmentalists and policy makers have focused largely on the supply side of the problem -- proposing new restrictions on power plants, heating systems and cars. Dominik Saner and colleagues decided to take a close look at the other end of the equation — how energy consumption for housing and land-based mobility at the household level impacts greenhouse gas emissions.

They studied more than 3,000 households in a Swiss town and found that only 21 percent of the households accounted for almost 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The biggest factors contributing to a few families having a disproportionately large environmental footprint were large living spaces, which use energy for heating, lighting and cooling, and long commutes in private vehicles.

“If their emissions could be halved, the total emissions of the community would be reduced by 25 percent,” the scientists concluded.

It's something to think about the next time you feel like criticizing the guy who drives a gas-guzzling sports car on weekends or dares use an outside gas grill.

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