“To me, the greatest takeaways from the report are the relative efficiency of metropolitan and urban areas, the variation of their performance, and the multiple influences that determine that,” says Mark Muro, policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. “Metros are responsible for a large amount of the nation’s emissions but also offer the best prospects for large savings.”
Partial data for emissions rankings
Mr. Muro is quick to acknowledge that the data are only partial, in large part because of the difficulty in obtaining accurate information. The two major sources of carbon-emissions data are 2000 and 2005 US Department of Transportation statistics on highway usage as well as information obtained from Platts, a subsidiary of McGraw-Hill, on residential energy usage. But the rankings do not include traffic on local roads or the emissions of commercial, industrial, or government users.
“We really have a fragmentary picture of the country,” Muro says. “This is the beginning of the conversation.”
Despite the shortcomings in the report, some groups still believe it has value. “It illustrates the importance of local governments since emissions are local and so are solutions,” says Annie Strickler, a spokeswoman for ICLEI (International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives), an umbrella organization of local governments working on sustainability issues.