Dr. Sean McGinnis director of the Virginia Tech Green Engineering Program told city council Monday that there was no doubt that carbon emissions were on the rise in Roanoke City. Since 2005 and partially as a result of the recession CO2 emissions had been trending down.
The “Save a Ton” program was initiated to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent in five years with an end goal in December 2014. The calculation equates to a yearly one ton emission reduction per Roanoke City household.
A group of businesses had committed to a 20 percent reduction. McGinnis said those companies exceed their 20 percent commitment. Still for the first year since 2005 carbon emissions as a whole are trending upward. Emissions are up .2 percent for 2010.
Data used for emission calculations is gleaned from VDOT in the form of vehicle miles traveled and from natural gas and electric bills. An increase in traffic on I-81 is one contributor to CO2 emissions for the Roanoke Valley. The annual vehicle miles traveled for 2010 is up almost 11 percent.
The increase in exhaust emissions outweighs the reduced natural gas and electricity energy savings. They came in at a five-percent and two-percent respectively, said McGinnis.
McGinnis is concerned that it shows that even with the economy not reaching full recovery emissions are already rising. Higher emissions will effect health and air and water quality. He reminded council of their commitment to reduce CO2 emissions.
As examples of what it takes to improve air quality McGinnis said it would take an energy reduction of 40 percent in 10,000 homes or bulb replacement with 200,000 CFL bulbs or 1200 cars increasing fuel efficiency from 20 to 35 mpg to reach the 10 percent goal.
“We need to redouble our efforts,” he said. “Sustainability requires leadership.”
Vice-Mayor Court Rosen admitted, “we are going in the wrong direction.” McGinnis confirmed that the upfront cost of saving energy was a deterrent. The cost over time would decrease with new technology but still not be able to keep up with economic expansion that would produce even more emissions in the meantime.
Government owned buildings are difficult to measure said McGinnis. They only account for two percent of energy usage.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Tags: city_council, environment