Consumer Level Measurements?

While reading the Carbon Efficient City, I came across the section discussing the difficulty of monitoring a multitude of sources of carbon output, and while I wholeheartedly agree that it would be far harder to monitor consumers than producers on a logistical level, I feel like it may be easier politically speaking to monitor them both rather than to monitor the producers alone.

With that in mind, I thought of a way in which such monitoring could be theoretically implemented on a nationwide scale with relative success. There already exists a platform by which monitoring of these consumer level outputs is relatively achievable, that of the mobile device (cell phones, tablets). With the mass proliferation of mobile devices that all run on one of four primary user interfaces, one of the major components in monitoring carbon emissions; the uniform collection and relay of information, is already largely in place throughout the country. In much the same way that our cell phones currently relay information on their performance back to their manufacturer in the background while we continue on with our business, there could be a background app that relays the relevant carbon information to the appropriate government agencies from their respective monitoring sources. What remains is the platform(s) for measurement of carbon emissions on a consumer level.

In thinking more about what that kind of system would look like, I began to think about the new smart home systems that are capable of integrating every electronic component in your home with your phone. While these new systems are most likely not widely adoptable in the immediate future due to costs of both production and widespread integration, a simpler system that integrates the same ability to label sources of power consumption via a central power source/conduit could fill that gap during the mean time at a fraction of the cost. This monitoring system could be as simple as the current sub metering systems employed in commercial buildings, but with the added capacity to relay information through nearby cell phones, which would simply act as a relay hub to transfer the information to the relevant government monitoring agency.

Monitoring of consumption and output at home is only a fraction of the problem however, because it fails to encompass the monitoring of vehicle output, which comprises a large amount of the carbon output in this country. This idea can be taken further by mandating the inclusion of an emissions testing module in each new vehicle that relays detailed information about the carbon output of the vehicle in the same way the home system works. For all older vehicles where the owner can’t afford the inclusion of such a system, they could be required to regularly (annually) visit the existing emissions testing centers, which could be used in consort with a record of the milage used per visit to determine the amount of carbon output during that period of time.

The results of these extra taxes at the consumer level could be distributed in much the same way as is described in the book, to stimulate economic growth and/or to subsidize those unable to afford their share of the carbon tax, but still required to output carbon beyond a certain “acceptable” level. While this would effectively raise taxes from carbon emissions at the individual level, my thought is that it would also provide a new lower level of acceptable consumer carbon output as it would begin shifting the way people use energy so as to decrease their taxable liability.


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