Carbon Visibility vs. Carbon Intensity

Most people accept that reducing atmospheric CO2 should be a priority. But at the same time, many people who don’t deal with carbon management metrics on a daily basis have a skewed perception of what activities generate the most emissions. So, what human activities contribute the most?

High Carbon Visibility Activities

Reducing the carbon impact of your everyday life is important to many people. Some of the biggest choices often include things like transitioning to electric vehicles or making homes more energy efficient. These household measures certainly help, as every little bit counts if we’re going to make meeting the Paris Agreement goals a reality. But how much do things like this really impact CO2 emissions when you look at the math?

Tesla, which just rolled its one-millionth car out of the plant, offers sleek, high-performance cars that have gained a huge following. Oxy Low Carbon Ventures is supporting the push for electric cars as well, through its partnership in TerraLithium. Around 15 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions come from cars and trucks, so this is an important endeavor.

More technology than ever is available to help homes run more efficiently, and the global market for energy management products today is somewhere around $40 billion. Around 37 percent of all electricity consumed in the United States is used by households, with the two biggest uses being heating and cooling systems and the running of appliances and electronics. So that Energy Star refrigerator is definitely worthwhile.

These measures are great, and we should all do our part. But emissions sources like these aren’t the most notorious, merely the most noticeable. They’re high-visibility emitters, but not necessarily the highest intensity. So what kinds of things put out the most CO2? Mostly things that many people don’t encounter directly in their everyday lives.

High Carbon Intensity Activities

According to the latest numbers available by the U.S. EPA, only about 29 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation activities. Passenger cars, light-duty trucks and the like account for a little more than half of this 29 percent. The rest includes all other modes of transport including commercial aircraft, marine transportation, pipelines, etc. Heavy duty trucks make up just five percent of the nation’s fleet population, but put out 20 percent of transportation emissions.

Together, electricity generation and industrial activity make up around 50 percent of all the nation’s CO2 emissions; 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Many of these source emitters are composed of stuff most people tend to forget about such as cement factories, makers of obscure chemicals, mining operations and metalworks. You interact with your car every day, but rarely think about the company that made the coating on your car’s transmission components, or the raw materials used to make your contact lenses.

Agriculture takes up around another 9 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions and residential and commercial activities combined make up just 12 percent. So if we woke up tomorrow and every house in the United States—not to mention every office building, college campus and the like, were suddenly carbon-neutral—we’d still only be down 12 percent in CO2 emissions overall. It’s these behind-the-scenes power and industrial emissions that make up the lion’s share of atmospheric CO2. Not only are these emitters low-visibility, but most people aren’t in a position to do much about them.

Helping Where it Matters Most

As it turns out, we’re in a better position to help than most. Oxy Low Carbon Ventures has the experience, expertise, technology and infrastructure to tackle these high-intensity carbon emission operations that most people don’t think about. And we’re making long-term commitments to new ventures and projects engineered to help guide these lesser-known emitters to carbon neutrality.

Our portfolio of technologies and projects has the potential to eliminate gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere and change what’s possible in the field of carbon-friendly energy and industry. So while our contributions aren’t household news and our projects don’t have the brand power of a sleek Tesla Model S, we are proud to be putting our technical skills to work to reduce carbon emissions where we can have a big impact.

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