The Residential Energy and Carbon Footprints of the 100 Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Brown, Marilyn A.
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The nation’s carbon footprint has a distinct geography that is not well understood or recognized in the national climate debate, partly because data on GHG emissions are so inadequate. Metros and the built environment are often neglected when solutions to the climate challenge are being discussed, yet they are major carbon emitters and they are poised to be part of the solution. To characterize metropolitan contributions to the global climate change problem, this paper quantifies the energy consumed and carbon emitted by the residential building sector of the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. It thereby provides, for the first time, a set of consistent indices that enable cross-metro comparisons and comparability with national statistics and across metropolitan areas. The residential footprints are derived from proprietary utility sales data from Platts Analytics supplemented by Census region and state-level data provided by EIA. We find that the average metropolitan resident emits 0.93 metric tons of carbon as a result of their residential energy consumption, which is 18 percent smaller than the average American. Per capita footprints vary substantially across metropolitan areas. Some of this variation can be attributed to climate, electricity prices, and the fuels used to generate electricity. In addition, compact metros consistently have lower per capita residential carbon footprints than more sprawling metros.