David Wogan brings up an important point–if we’re serious about global warming, we need to lower the amount of energy buildings use:
Consider this: according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, our nation’s buildings consume over 40 percent of the energy consumed across all sectors – that is even more energy than consumed by the transportation sector (29 percent). And in our homes and apartments, nearly half (49 percent) of all energy is used for heating and cooling.
As he points out weatherization is something you can and should do to lower energy consumption. But there’s another issue, best illustrated by this chart:
Here’s the problem–single, detached houses that require automobile transportation:
One of the best ways to reduce the amount of stuff we have to light on fire is to move from single detached housing in areas with no efficient mass transit to apartments with access to mass transit (keep in mind that residential use and transporation account for about two-thirds of total energy consumption). In other words, we have to massively ‘desuburbanize’ and simultaneously ‘reurbanize.’
And this list is only part of what fixing that would entail:
Would we really be able to change the myriad number of economic and funding incentives in favor of the suburbs and the disincentives for living in urban areas?
Will we remove the mortgage interest tax deduction (most urbanites are renters and most suburbanites are owners)?
Will we decrease the massive subsidies and externalizations at the federal, state and local levels for driving?
Will we intelligently zone communities so apartment buildings could be built in more places?
…Will we adequately fund mass transit, both short- and long-distance? Especially when conservative governors actively refuse what is basically free money?
By all means, improving your home’s energy efficiency is something you should do–and you don’t have to wait for anyone else. But there is a larger issue of how we live and organize our communities that also needs to be addressed.