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Biden’s goal of limiting emissions: Whose job is it?

President Joe Biden wants to cut America’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in half by 2030. Who is going to make that happen?

The carmakers and the oil companies? Yes, they produce GHG emissions in making the cars and refining the oil. But are they responsible for emissions from your car’s tailpipe? Who bought that car? Who pulled up to the pumps?

As for natural gas, yes, a relatively small but significant amount escapes into the atmosphere during production and distribution. But most natural gas GHG emissions are from users burning it. So, is the natural gas industry fully responsible for emissions from your rooftop?

The bottom line: You, the American consumer, can make a major difference in lowering GHG emissions and slowing climate change. Our household is doing it. Yours can, too. All you have to do is set a goal and work toward it.

Let’s start with transportation. The average American two-driver, two-car household uses around 1,200 gallons of gasoline yearly, which translates to about 11.7 tons of GHG emissions. For the last four years, our two-person, two-car household has averaged less than 200 gallons — or about one sixth the national average. All without a drastic change in our lifestyle.

How? Starting in 2017, we leased a new plug-in hybrid ($200 a month) with 53 miles of electric range and 42 mpg on gasoline. In those years, we drove our other car, a 2006 SUV (22 mpg combined), only for the shorter trips when the other driver had the plug-in. Today, we own a smaller and more fuel-efficient 2017 SUV (30 mpg combined) and a used 2016 sub-compact EV with about 72 miles of range. Total cost for both cars, bought used: $26,000. That’s about half the cost of a new Tesla, so no excuses.

Side note: Yes, EVs produce more GHG emissions in manufacturing, but a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that this penalty is overcome after about 18,000 miles of driving on average in the U.S. (Less in Oregon, as our charging grid is above average in renewable sources.)

Next, we have GHG emissions from natural gas. This one is tough. Like most in the Rogue Valley, we rely on it for home heating, but only on colder days with temperatures below 35 degrees. That’s because we have a hybrid heat pump system which uses electricity — increasingly from renewable sources — until temperatures dip near freezing.

Consequently, our natural gas consumption last year was about 375 therms. The annual average for Ashland is close to 500, and the national average is around 715 therms. We’re doing well, but we can do better. We also use natural gas for hot water, so later this year we’re replacing the gas hot water heater with an electric one. Cooking, for us, is a relatively minor contributor so we may hold off on that use. But if we can’t achieve our goal of 250 therms by 2025, we’ll look at investing in a more efficient geothermal heat pump, which works even below zero.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. It’s a matter of paying attention and investing wisely. Slowing climate change is not the sole responsibility of government and big corporations. We must do our part … or our planet cooks. Please don’t look the other way and say, “Who, me?” Set your own goals for drastic household reductions and get to it.

If you are determined to cut your transportation emissions, but still want to drive a car, I modestly offer my Rogue Valley Plug-in Buyer’s Guide, which you can download for free at www.soheva.net. It details new and used options for one- and two-car households with varying budgets.

If you use natural gas in your home, start planning on switching some uses to electric. The grid will keep getting greener, but natural gas GHG emissions will never improve. If you can’t afford to switch heating or appliances now, Google for “ways to reduce natural gas use.” You’ll find lots of tips.

Whatever you do, it’s a wise investment in the future. Otherwise, we may not have one.

Bruce Borgerson lives in Ashland.