Sunday, April 29, 2007

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Increase in DC Area

The Washington Post reports that greenhouse gas emissions in the DC metropolitan area have increased rapidly over the past five years. From 2001-2005, greenhouse gas emissions have increased by about 5.6% nationally. Around Washington, D.C., emissions rose by 13.4% over the same period. The main culprit seems to be the rapid growth of the city's exurbs, which require longer commutes between work and home, and an increased need for electricity as a result of new real estate development.

Emissions jumped the most in suburban Virginia, where the estimate shows an increase of more than 18 percent. Emissions from the Maryland suburbs grew less, about 11 percent, but that rate still outpaced the country's.

The brightest news came from the District, where emissions grew 6.7 percent. D.C. officials said they think the relatively low increase is partly a sign of changing behavior: Residents were leaving their cars at home and walking, biking or taking public transit.
The continued increase in emissions, which has outpaced population growth in the region, makes the passage of emission reduction legislation more pressing. In particular, the clean cars initiative should help to reduce at least some emissions (see here). Virginia's emissions problems are stickier because of exurban development, and reduction there will probably not happen unless adequate public transportation connects those exurbs to D.C. The good news is that the Orange Line will eventually be extended; the bad news is that the extension will still leave quite a lot of northern Virginia without easy Metro access.

Kingman Island

In other local news, Kingman Island had its grand opening yesterday. Kingman and Heritage Islands, in the Anacostia River near RFK Stadium, will eventually host an environmental education center and nature trails. For the moment they are still closed to the public at most times. The future of the center appears somewhat uncertain since funding remains a problem. However, the times seem propitious for Kingman to become a valuable resource for the District.