For years, U.S. car manufacturers claimed that they could not sell cars based on their fuel economy. And then along comes a serious spike in gas prices and guess what? Everyone's scrambling for hybrids, anything that gets better gas mileage than a Ford F150 or a Cadillac Escalade. (Well, I guess everyone but Tiger Woods, but I digress.)
My point? Europeans are obviously far ahead of Americans in their willingness to buy smaller cars and Renault, Peugeot and Citroën are also now touting their performance in reducing emission of greenhouse gases in their billboards and magazine ads. Take that Detroit.
Helping people understand their own carbon footprint is not going to get us to the kinds of reductions that the world's heads of state are now discussing in Copenhagen. But it's a start. When you calculate your itinerary on Parisian mass transit (or transports en commun, as it's called in French) on the RATP Web site, the results page not only shows you what time to catch the bus and where to transfer but also the comparative carbon emissions versus the same trajectory by car. The leg I take to and from my French class two times a week, for example, results in 258 grams of CO₂ by bus and just 10 grams of CO₂ if I go by subway compared with 642 grams if I were going by car. (If you're a real geek and you can read French, you can learn more about the method of calculation on the RATP site here.) It's not going to keep a small Pacific island from sinking into oblivion but at least it's something.