Using an Individual-Level Measure to Lower CO2 Emission

While discussing the systematic difficulties to achieve a carbon efficient city, A-P Hurd and Al Hurd bring up the issue on measure in their publication, The Carbon Efficient City. Their quotation by Peter Drucker, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”, really gets me into thinking about what kind of measure at the individual level could be standardized and be adopted universally.

The immediate question I asked myself was, “what is one of the major sources of CO2 emission at the individual level?” Driving instantly answered my question (although not ALL people drive). To put a measure on driving creates many challenges. How about we begin to tax people according to their vehicles’ MPGs (Mile per gallon) published on feuleconomy.gov? That ought to make them change their driving behaviors, and even their preferences on vehicle purchase choice.

Though MPGs are good indications of cars’ fuel efficiency, they cannot develop an actual shared standard because they lead to flawed comparisons and false conclusions. For example, while one may own a vehicle which can achieve very high MPGs, others will automatically conclude that his/her vehicle emits very little CO2. Little did they know that he/she idles his/her car a lot and frequently makes short trips where driving was not necessary. Therefore, what is more challenging is defining what type of a measure will nudge people’s driving behaviors.

The actual MPGs become my top candidate as a measure at individual level for taxing driving. While cars are equipped with odometers to record their mileages driven, if they were also equipped with meters that record how much gas they used, the actual MPGs can be calculated through a simple division. If driving were to be taxed, the submission of reports on actual MPGs will be required from drivers or vehicles’ owners when renewing their registrations. Actual MPGs can be used as a measure to determine how much an individual should be taxed based on a combination of fuel efficiency of their vehicles and driving behaviors. To avoid paying the additional taxes, people are most likely to make better choices when purchasing and driving their vehicles. Furthermore, the instant savings at registration renewals directly reward those drivers who achieved high actual MPGs.

Certainly, using actual MPGs as a measure to tax driving is imperfect. For example, vehicles’ actual occupancy is not taken into account. Nevertheless, in my opinion, actual MPGs can serve as a starting point, a small motion which may eventually lead us to “swing high with little effort” in the battle of lowering CO2 emission.

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