Hawai'i's greenhouse gas production has risen since 1990, but of all sources it is ground transportation that has spiraled upward most like some Fourth of July spinning rocket.
Is that because we simply couldn't do anything about it? Hardly.
In part due to dramatic efforts in efficiency and also due to improvements in load management, the other huge component of the transportation picture actually improved during the period. Air transportation actually achieved efficiencies that allowed it to carry more passengers, while reducing its carbon dioxide production.
In the first of several major reports on Energy and Greenhouse Gas Solutions, the University of Hawai'i Economic Research Organization (UHERO), created an emissions inventory for the 15-year period in question. It's part of a project ordered by the state Legislature in 2007's Act 234, to come up with ways to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2005.
Clearly, we've got a long way to go.
The greenhouse gas project is led by Denise Eby Konan, with the help Steven Alber, Paul Bernstein, Iman Nasseri, Craig Coleman, Robert Mills, Michael Hamnett, and Terrence Surles.
Download a copy of the Hawai'i Greenhouse Gas Emissions Profile 1990 and 2005 here.
Here is part of the summary of their first report.
“The most significant source of growth is ground transportation, which experienced a 53 percent increase in GHG emissions from 1990 to 2005. Electric power generation resulted in 22 percent higher emissions levels in 2005. Non-energy sources of emissions, such as industrial processes, agriculture and municipal solid waste, also grew rapidly but beginning from a relatively small base. Air transportation emissions declined even as the number of passengers grew. Residential, commercial and industrial direct emissions also contracted.”
Electricity and ground transportation are such big chunks of the pie that, despite improvements in air and a few other uses, greenhouse gas emissions were up overall.
The team notes that other greenhouse gases, like methane, nitrous oxide and various refrigerants and solvents are potent factors in the greenhouse equation, but that carbon dioxide is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, simply because so vastly more of it is being produced. In Hawai'i, the team estimates that 93 percent of our greenhouse gas production is CO2.
So how do the various sectors compare in size: Stationary energy sources like powerplants represent 41.1 percent, and non-energy sources make up 8.6 percent. That's about half of all Hawai'i's production of carbon dioxide in 2005. The rest is transportation, and it breaks down 22.7 percent air, 21.2 percent ground and about 6 percent marine.
The vast majority of the CO2 comes from burning refined petroleum—gasoline, diesel and so forth. A big chunk of the remainder is from the coal burned at AES Hawai'i, and at the HC&S plant on Maui.
If you're a resident of Hawai'i, not counting the shipping of good to Hawai'i and not counting your flying habits, you're responsible for about 15 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year (2005 numbers).
And 11 of those 15 tons are from your electrical and ground transportation use—6.6 for power and 4.4 for ground transportation.
These numbers have been rising. Why? Here's what Konan's group figures:
“First, residential development is expanding in locations further from urban employment centers. This has resulted in increased commuting time and ground transportation emissions. Second, Hawai‘i’s visitors are heavy energy users of power and transportation services, and the economy continues to focus more on tourism. Finally, Hawai‘i relies heavily on fossil fuels for power and has a relatively small component of renewable energy in its power profile.”
©2009 Jan TenBruggencate