Thursday, December 8, 2011

Boo, Yale

Why do they do this? You of course recall my recent post noting how uninformative all those comparisons about stacks of dollar bills to the moon were.  Now the New York Times "Green" blog quotes a paper from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, saying that yearly carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. rivers and streams are "equal to a car burning 40 billion gallons of gasoline, enough to drive back and forth to the moon 3.4 million times."

Helpful? How many times do you drive back and forth to the moon in a year? Does this give you any idea about the magnitude, other than "big"?

Let's make it simple. According to the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. consumes 378 million gallons of motor gasoline per day. So the annual emissions from rivers and streams are equal to a little over 100 days of emissions from cars burning gasoline, or between a quarter and a third.

At this point it becomes apparent that either we've buried the lead, or we're not understanding the story. Here we are going to all this trouble about carbon emissions from cars, and we haven't done anything about killer rivers and streams. I presume that this study is not really about finding a huge new source of carbon emissions, but about changing our understanding of transport mechanisms. But that gets obscured by the image of The Little Camry That Could making those millions of round trips (it's a long commute, but the scenery is great).

Anyway, no more moon statistics, OK?

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