Austerity Riot Intro and FAQ are Up!

Sharon May 23rd, 2007

Here’s the Intro to the Austerity Riot/90% Reduction Project:

Here’s the FAQ:

And if you are looking for them, here are the rules and regs, over at Miranda’s site where they look so much cooler:

If I can ever figure it out, I’ll put a permanent link like the ones Miranda has on my blog. Don’t hold your breath for technical competence from me, though ;-).

Ok, gotta go garden - the weather is finally decent for a change!


14 Responses to “Austerity Riot Intro and FAQ are Up!”

  1. mirandaon 23 May 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Sharon - I will create on for the rules and regs as well! :)

  2. roelon 23 May 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Sharon, this is the Blogger help page for the links:

    Blogger Link Help

    If that doesn’t work out, you can email me.

  3. Anonymouson 23 May 2007 at 6:43 pm

    A little while ago, in search for info about gas milage for school buses, I went on NJ Q&A, which is a site where you can chat with a librarian. (Why would I want to do that? I’m a cataloguer who trained as a youth services librarian, and my web searching skills are pretty weak.) I told her why a was looking for the info, and when she expressed interested, I emailed her the link. She said she was very glad that Sharon was doing this.


  4. Gwynon 23 May 2007 at 8:24 pm

    The faq are great - now its time to just get into it!

  5. dustybanjoon 24 May 2007 at 2:30 am

    The kids don’t know it yet, but we’re going to join in this amazing project from our little spot in Southern Ontario. Much as I loathe doing math (and there seems to be a lot of up-front math to do) I suspect that will be the least of the pain…

    Susan & Byron

  6. GK4on 24 May 2007 at 6:28 pm

    I had an idea just today, and was surprised I hadn’t thought of it earlier. Why not use my CO2 calculator to see how much CO2 would be produced by an individual achieving these reduction goals? I turns out that anyone succeeding in this effort would get *very close* to the Forrest/Monbiot ration of 2,250 kg/person/yr. in 2006.

    I (inexpertly) calculate that such a person would get to about 2,885 kg/person/yr., which would be a very significant reduction below the current U.S. average. It is also probably within range of reasonable CO2 trading with people in the global South who produce less than the Forrest-Monbiot ration. (Unfortunately, there is no trading mechanism yet.) Also, unfortunately, this is still well above the Forrest-Monbiot ration for 2030, which is 1,200 kg. However, however, earlier reductions in CO2 emissions are better than the same amount of reductions later.

    Here are the numbers, based on the emissions statistics I reported earlier:

    Category 1, Gasoline: The Casaubon/SimpleReduce goal is 50 gallons per person per year. 1 gallon of gasoline yields 8.8 kg CO2 ( ), so 50 gallons produces 440 kgCO2.

    Category 2, Electricity: The Casaubon/SimpleReduce system measures this goal per household. To make the measurement consistent across all categories, I have had to convert “household” to individual. The average size of a U.S. household in 2006 was 2.6 people ( ).

    1100 kWh/household/year would then be 423.077 kWh/person/yr.

    Different sources of energy for power generation produce different levels of CO2. Averaging the emissions from coal-, natural gas-, and oil-powered generating plants (the three main sources?) gives me 0.71 kg/kWh
    ( ). Your mileage may vary depending on what your local power company actually burns.

    At 423.077 kWh/person/yr. that’s 300.385 kg/person/yr.

    Category 3, Heating and Cooking Energy: More conversions were necessary. For natural gas use, the Casaubon/SimpleReduce system has a target of 100 therms/hhld/yr, which gives us 38.462 therms/person/yr.

    I don’t use therms in my calculations, but they are apparently close to CCF of natural gas ( ), which I do use. Burning one CCF of natural gas emits 5.4 kgCO2 ( ).

    38.462 CCF gives us 207.692 kg/CO2.

    As for heating oil, the Casaubon/SimpleReduce goal is 75 gallons per household per year, which is 28.846 gal/person/yr. At 10.16 kgCO2/gal ( ) that gives us 293.077 kg/CO2.

    I didn’t know what to do with wood.

    Category 4, Garbage: I don’t see how this has too much to do with CO2 production, except if your garbage produces methane in landfills. I would say that reduction in consumer spending will reduce garbage anyway.

    Category 5, Water: I don’t see how this has too much to do with CO2 production either. You are already accounting for the electricity used by the water pump.

    Category 6, Consumer Goods: Oh, this is a tough one. My calculation for kgCO2/dollar of consumer goods is based on “The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists” (1999). It gives me an average figure (across all types of goods and services) of 0.969 kgCO2/dollar. This is more than what I *think* Casaubon’s Book and Simple Reduce are using.

    The Rules for this project ( ) state, in part, that “A Professor at Syracuse University calculates that as an average, every consumer dollar we spend puts .5 lbs of carbon into the atmosphere.” I wanted to make sure that was carbon, and not carbon dioxide, which is different. I eventually turned up a book review on a website I have never seen before for a book that I’ve never read. The figure could be wrong. ( ) However, it says something very different from what the Casaubon/SimpleReduce “Rules” claim. “He [Bill McKibben, the author of the book being reviews] points out numerous times that each dollar spent represents roughly half a liter of oil consumed.” I don’t know if this figure is derived from analysis of the entire world’s economy, or the entire U.S. economy, or if it’s specifically about the manufacturing and related sectors. This figure is also (apparently) cited in a book from 1995, so we don’t know how inflation has affected the numbers. It’s all quite vague, and I’d like more information, if anyone has it.

    But let’s try it on for size anyway. One dollar –> one half liter of oil –> but wait, is that gasoline (for distribution, for example) and oil (maybe used to generate electricity for manufacturing) and how is it proportioned? So I’ll guess it’s about 10 kgCO2/gal, at 0.264 gal/liter, and we’re looking at half a liter, so one dollar produces 1.32 kgCO2 by this measure.

    The Casaubon/SimpleReduce goal is US$1,000 in current dollars, per household per year, which is US$384.62/person/yr. At the emission rate above, that would be 507.692 kgCO2/person/yr.

    Category 7, Food: I think I may have figures out a way to calculate kgCO2 for the amount of food consumed in the U.S. It’s rather complicated, and still just my untrained method of estimating, so I’ll put that in another comment. I calculate that an individual’s 2,250 kcal/day, purchased from the commercial U.S. agricultural sector, entails the annual emission of 1,136 kgCO2.

    1.) Gasoline target = 440 kgCO2
    2.) Electricity target = 300.385 kgCO2
    3.) Natural gas and heating oil target = 207.692 kgCO2 + 293.077 kgCO2
    4.) Garbage — n/a
    5.) Water — n/a
    6.) Consumer goods target = 507.692 kgCO2
    7.) Food target = 1,136 kgCO2

    TOTAL = 2,884.846 kgCO2 per person per year
    Compared to U.S. average of 20 metric tonnes per person per year: 14.42%
    Compared to Forrest-Monbiot ration for 2006: 128.22%
    Compared to Forrest-Monbiot ration for 2030: 240.40%

  7. jewishfarmeron 24 May 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Wow, George - I’m impressed. Thanks for doing this! I’m also kind of pleased for my own family - given that we’re a household of six, hitting these goals is going to be an even more of an accomplishment. I think your analysis is especially valuable for people who want more data about making this fit their precise household. I admit, I never even got around to looking up average household size - I assumed it was 4. Shoddy of me.

    A couple of notes - 1. You either get the natural gas allotment *OR* the oil allotment, not both - most Americans use only one (usually natural gas), and for those rare households who do use both, you have to come up with the equivalent of one source. So you would use either the oil or gas figure, but not both.

    2. As far as I know, all garbage produces methane or carbon - methane if it is landfilled (even if you aren’t putting anything that could cause methane production in the garbage, your bags are contributing to the environment that causes other people’s scraps to produce methane, carbon if it is incinerated. So I think its inclusion is appropriate. I don’t, however, know how to calculate it into your figures. And no, I don’t think the consumer dollars subject is adequate - for example, compare the impact of a dollar spent on bulk beans that come in a recycled paper sack to a dollar spent on a happy meal.

    3. Water doesn’t have anything to do with CO2 emissions - but Miranda suggested, and I think she’s right, that in a much drier world, we all have to be more water aware, so we added it in.

    4. Sorry, should have been clearer - I was referring to CO2. The figures I’ve noted came from a 1994 paper in the Journal of Environmental Management from Charles T. Hall. I think it is the spring volume, but I’ll have to get back to you on that - I just had my husband dump all the books I had from the SUNY library back in the return slot ;-). I can’t find an online source - I think the paper may not be online. That said, I’m fine with using the more current figures - that you have - since the 90% reduction is a 90% reduction. I appreciate the better data.

    5. I would think that food emissions should include methane and nitrous oxide as well - which was part of our (probably less useful) calculations. They are such potent greenhouse gasses and food is the major problem. Again, can’t help you with anything better than we’ve got, estimate wise, though.

    All of this is very valuable, George - you really should get a website and commit all this information to public discussion.


  8. GK4on 24 May 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for the positive response.

    “That said, I’m fine with using the more current figures - that you have - since the 90% reduction is a 90% reduction. I appreciate the better data.”

    Well, even the people who created those figures were clear that they were still only estimates, and my changes might have made things less accurate. Who knows, maybe Hall is better? *The real problem is that these things are not well-measured.*

    And, yeah, I may soon break down and post my material in a blog for easier accessability. Sorry to keep clogging up your comment-box.

  9. Anonymouson 24 May 2007 at 10:36 pm

    I don’t think I am in it for 90%, but I wanted to start by seeing how my household compares to the goals.

    Household members
    3 adults, 3 kids, 1 small dog (3rd adult is friend whose C02 I cannot track for all categories)
    Climate: southern California
    Home: 2400 sqft, 5000sqft suburban lot with some 10 fruit trees or vines and lawn

    Passat mostly run on biodiesel
    379 gallons/year; 10% regualar diesel, 60% soy-based B100 (0.5x factor), 30% waste veg oil (0.2x factor)
    Camry on compressed natural gas (~500 therms plus 1400 kwh for home compressor)
    936 kg/CO2/person/year

    Electricity: 4000kwh of rooftop PV installed 4.5 years ago (assumed embodied energy now paid back), additional 1800 kwh for home. SoCalEdison CO2 factor = 0.318kg/kwh
    170 kg/CO2/person/year

    Heating/Cooking/Clothes Dryer: 280 therms or 252 kg/CO2/person/year

    Water: 136 CCF last 12 months (going down due to installation of more efficient toilets a few months ago, probably more like 110 CCF) about 46 gal/person/day which includes landscape watering.

    Still working on the other categories. Food is going to be some work as only about 1-2% of our annual calories are provided by the backyard and we would be lucky to get it to 4%. Farmers market is 13 mile round trip. Does not count energy use at work or air transport which is quite variable (1,000-10,000/year total).

    Of the categories listed 1358kg/person/year


  10. jewishfarmeron 24 May 2007 at 11:06 pm

    George, you aren’t cluttering anything up - your information is valuable. I’m just concerned that people may not see it down here in the comments box!


  11. RASon 25 May 2007 at 2:27 am

    Hey Sharon,
    I just want to interject that water usage DOES cause emissions, in 2 ways (depending on your water source and power source):
    1.) If the water is pumped from any location (even your well) using electricity and your power is dirty, you’re producing emission to get water. The power that goes to the pumps at your local reservoir won’t show up on your utility bill, but it causes emissions just the same.
    2.) When you heat water using an electric or gas water heater and your power is dirty, you’re again causing emissions. This will be part of the power category, but the two are interrelated.

  12. GK4on 25 May 2007 at 3:41 am


    Good point about water systems beyond one’s residence. Who then pays for this electricity? If it’s municipal taxes, that would help me choose to count my tax money in my emissions. Could it be some other kind of agency though? Just wondering.

  13. roelon 25 May 2007 at 1:40 pm


    Depending on where you live, you may want to think also about the fact that water filtration and purification systems are huge energy gobblers, likely more so than the pumps. Obviously this gets more important the more urban your area is.

    It would be good, as an aside, to ponder how vulnerable this makes many people in the future: your clean water requires large energy inputs.

    “Home-made” water filtration skills could become very valuable.

  14. jewishfarmeron 25 May 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Rebecca - that’s a really good point. Living where I do, where water is a personal issue (ie, everyone has their own private water source), I forget how big an issue water treatment and pumping is to urban supplies.

    And George, you have a good point about taxes counting in your emissions - I have no doubt my taxes go to all sorts of carbon heavy activities - invading other countries, busing kids to school, letting Congress emit methane out its collective…umm… But other than become war tax protestors, I don’t know that it is possible for most of us to cut our taxes that much. There are some places we may never be able to control.

    Although I do think we all need to think much more about our work, and what we do for a living, and the impact of our income. There may not be anything we can do about it, of course, but it is worth talking about. More on that soon, I think.


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