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Dallas is Proud of Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions By a Third, and Thinks You Should Drive Less

The city of Dallas is doing its part, Mr. Polar Bear. It's the people that live here who are screwing it up for you.
The city of Dallas is doing its part, Mr. Polar Bear. It's the people that live here who are screwing it up for you.
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Back in 2006, Mayor Laura Miller joined with her colleagues across the country to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a promise to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012, It was just Dallas doing in its part to chip in on the probably futile effort to prevent the planet from becoming a scorched ruin.

So how'd we do? According to city staff, pretty damn well. Because this is Dallas and it's how we roll, we didn't stop at seven percent, not even 14 percent. Per today's presentation to the City Council's Environment and Transportation Committee, Dallas cut its carbon emissions by a third.

The short answer is that the city started buying a shitload of its electricity (about 40 percent) from renewable sources. There have been other contributors to the reduction, like the replacement of incandescent light bulbs with more efficient models and the use of methane at the landfill and water plant as a fuel source, and the conversion of a third of city vehicles to run on biodiesel. But because electricity accounts for 3/4 of the city's emissions, buying low-carbon electricity has by far had the largest impact.

Of course, the city itself accounts for a miniscule sliver of the greenhouse gas emissions in Dallas, which have decreased since 2005 but are maybe 20 percent higher than in 1990. That's partly a function of population growth, partly that people are driving greater distances. The community's share of greenhouse gas emissions is expected to continue rising at least through 2020, albeit modestly.

So how does the city plan to combat the trend? There aren't a whole lot of answers on this one. City staff suggests encouraging transit-oriented development around DART stations, create jobs close to where people live, particularly in South Dallas, so workers don't have to travel from DeSoto to Richardson to get to work, and work with the North Central Texas Council of Governments on strategies aimed at reducing the number of miles driven.

Meanwhile, the city continues to work to further reduce its carbon footprint. It will do this with, among other things, a lot of solar panels. We're talking panels on the convention center roof and in the plaza overlooking the cemetery. Maybe a 100-acre solar farm on land owned by Dallas Water Utilities. And photovoltaic panels and solar hot water heaters at each of the city's 118 police and fire stations. They would pay for themselves in 11.5 years.

Those things are all in the works. They'll be moving forward this fall.


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