Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on November 2nd, 2011 at 2:31 pm
A new report issued by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows that there are more greenhouse gas emissions from products we buy than through driving, making electricity, or other activities. This “consumption-based” analysis of GHG emissions seems like yet another great example of why we should buy bikes made in the U.S.A. and why local and state politicians should work even harder to promote local bicycle manufacturing. (OK, even if I’m stretching to link this report to bicycling, I still think it’s interesting, so hopefully you’ll read on…)
The report, Consumption-Based Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory for Oregon – 2005 (PDF), is the first ever study to estimate the carbon emissions footprint from all products consumed by one state — ranging from food and beverages to clothing and appliances.
Here’s more from a story yesterday on OPB (emphasis mine):
“The most common way to track greenhouse gases looks at what’s emitted within a state’s borders. The latest analysis suggests that products created out-of-state account for more than half of Oregon’s carbon footprint.
The new inventory finds that local sources of emissions make up less than half of the carbon Oregon consumers are responsible for.
The rest consists of imported products – coffee from South America, clothes and toys from China, cars made in Japan or Tennessee… the study suggests local products have smaller carbon footprints – but maybe not for the reason that people would assume.”
The OPB story goes on to quote a DEQ spokesperson who says the reason isn’t because of shipping distances, but that it’s about the much cleaner production processes used in the U.S. and that fuel used in U.S. manufacturing contains less carbon than in other countries.
“In short,” reads the report, “because Oregon imports more goods and services (particularly emissions-intensive products, such as vehicles) than it exports, its share of global greenhouse gas emissions is greater than the emissions released within the state.”
This is an important new way to look at GHG emissions. the researchers recommend that states and local governments, “should adopt methods of counting greenhouse gas emissions that allow them to assess the emissions implications of consumption-related decisions over which they have influence.”
While there are always limitations and exceptions to reports like this, it could add momentum to “buy local” efforts. And in Portland, where we have a thriving industry of locally-made bicycle frames, parts, and accessories, perhaps local leaders will use this report as leverage to do more to promote and support them.