The San Diego Alternative Energy Meetup Group Message Board › Politics & Debate › Carbon Footprint
|A former member||
Carbon labeling is in its infancy, but growing in popularity. For example, recently in the news Dell received attention for their claim to be a "green" company. Unfortunately, it appears that Dell has omitted the greenhouse gas (GHG) associated with their manufacturing (by far and away the largest part of their cabon footprint, associated with overseas manufacturing).
In addition to problems of omission, there are issues about how comprehensive, thorough and up-to-date the footprint calculations are. Each process is a moving target as technological, economic improvements and learning curve progress changes the result. For example, corn ethanol production, an example of a not very green fuel, has improved energy efficiency, as documented by studies at the Argonne National Laboratory.
Furthermore, the carbon footprint is most often a calculation of steady state operation of the item or process in question; in all fairness, it should also include the transients that are always present. For example, the GHG of a transportation vehicle, in addition to that from average year-in, year-out use, should take into account its life cycle GHG emissions. For this example, that includes the GHG for manufacture, transport, sale, repair, second-owner use, depreciation, reduction to scrap and disposal (not to mention the GHG to build and retool the factory). If these are included (a difficult job of analysis), most green vehicles don't look so green any more. (How much GHG is implied by the considerably higher cost of the Prius than a comparable gasoline auto?)
My point is that, while carbon footprint labeling is an excellent idea, it is hard to get right and should certainly include life cycle (cradle-to-grave) GHG as well.