266 Pounds of C02

Last Friday night like millions of other Americans, I was on the road, in my case to the Hartford airport, to pick up much loved and not seen often enough family. They live in Nashville, but like many, many others - witness the army of cars driving north on I91 - they love Vermont and we get together here instead of there.

The flight was delayed and it’s after midnight when we start the 99.89 mile trip to my house. Before we even get to Springfield, everyone is drowsy. “Don’t anybody go to sleep,” the driver implores. “Keep talking to me.”

They are both scientists. So I ask about something that has been puzzling me. “How much C02 does the combustion of one gallon of gasoline produce?”

There is disagreement about how much oxygen atoms weigh but agreement that they weigh less than carbon atoms. Then there is some mumbling under the breath that appears to be sleepy mental math and a guesstimate/answer - 12 pounds of C02 per gallon of gas.

I already knew the answer, I had looked it up the day before, but didn’t believe it; I was sure it was a mistake. The correct answer, according to the EPA website, is 19 pounds of C02 per gallon of gasoline.

Wow! That’s a lot. I used 13.97 gallons of gas this weekend to drive 452 miles and thus produced 266 pounds of C02. (BTW, that is about 32 miles per gallon from a 12 year old Honda, with the snow tires finally off, mostly driving at the speed limit, but running the air conditioner on the trip south on Monday afternoon.)

That’s not so bad, really, when you consider that just one chair lift at the Vail ski resort produces 300 tons of C02 in a season. But then it actually is bad, really bad, when you think about the hundreds and hundreds of other cars that were driving north on I91 Friday night. Mostly big SVU-type cars with kayaks and bicycles strapped to the top, going well above the speed limit. And, of course, they drove south on Monday.

I can’t do anything about other people who drive SUVs as a lifestyle thing. But there are some concrete things I can do, and will.

I commit to carpooling to work four days a week, every week, which means I drive three days and only two if I work at home one day a week. My commute is approximately 70 miles round trip. So, if I don’t drive three days each week, that’s 210 miles saved. At 32 mpg, that’s about 6.5 gallons I didn’t use or 123.5 pounds of C02 I didn’t create each week. Multiply that by 50 weeks, and that’s 6,175 pounds of C02 per year that I didn’t create.

What if we all did something like that? How much C02 can we not produce? I challenge you to commit to reducing your carbon production. Calculate how much C02 you can save.

Tell us how and how much, and I’ll keep a running tally here.