Saturday, August 26, 2006

Carbon Footprint

Andrew Fife sent me a link to TerraPass, a cool service that allows you to offset your car's carbon emissions for less than $80 a year. Very cool idea.

The VC industry recently added a new sector of investment: clean energy. New funds are being raised and new opportunities explored in generating clean energy. As individuals, moreover, Americans are beginning to explore their contributions to carbon dioxide emissions.

I expect that within a few years one's carbon footprint will become common knowledge and carbon diets, attempts to lower carbon emissions, will become sources of pride and conversation.

This month's Sierra Club magazine features a great article, My Low-Carbon Diet, that explores carbon footprints and the ways in which modern lifestyles generate carbon. The site also features a link to a carbon-calculator, hosted at on the web site for Al Gore's movie - An Inconvenient Truth.

The article includes a carbon index with the following statistics:
  • Average daily US carbon dioxide emissions per person: 122 pounds
  • Average worldwide: 24 pounds
  • Amount that could be emitted without raising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere: 9 pounds
  • Average pounds of carbon dioxide emitted each day by:
  • driving in the US, per person: 2.2 pounds
  • flying in the US, per person: 3.3 pounds
  • cooling the 76 % of US households with AC: 3.9 pounds
  • a typical refrigerator: 3.6 pounds
  • the best current 21-cubic foot fridge: 1.6 pounds
  • an electric clothes dryer: 3.9 pounds
  • average per kilotwatthour: 1.5 pounds
  • coal-fired kwh: 2.0 pounds
  • hydro kwh: 0.5 pounds
When I worked in the energy field in the early 1990s, gas-fired plants cost $.03/kwh while sustainable energy plants ran $.14/kwh. In the absence of market forces or regulation capturing the externalities of the ultimate costs of coal-fired energy, technology and entrepreneurs will need to innovate to close the cost-competitiveness gap. While I expect future governments will add a carbon-tax to dirtier energy, I also believe that a growing number of consumers will become more aware of their carbon footprints and seek to buy greener sources of fuel and energy.

Take the carbon calculator test. Thanks to the Sierra Club for a great article.


  1. Will:
    Terrapass, a Menlo Park startup, allows consumers to offset their carbon emmissions through annual subscriptions that are used to fund alternative energy. You can check them out here:


  2. ...Burning Man attendees that want to offset their carbon footprint, checkout Cooling Man:

  3. UBS now has a C02 emissions index called the UBS World Emissions Index:

  4. I Sincerely hope we never come to the point where we are discussing our carbon footprint with one another. What is the carbon footprint of constructing a new home, or constructing a new hybrid car? These would be great topics. Who is going to decide which of these silly little calculators are actually calibrated? Oh well great thoughts. Jason