Nation-wide transportation uses about 30% of all the energy we use. In Greenfield, according to the Greenfield Energy Audit, in 2008 transportation used 41% of the energy we used; caused 30% of our climate change emissions; and accounted for 39% of all the money we spend on energy.
Transportation is particularly vulnerable because 98% of our transportation needs are fueled by oil, and it is generally accepted that reducing our energy use for transportation will be one the most difficult areas to reduce our energy use. Commonly sited strategies to cut energy use from transportation is to get out of our cars and walk, bike, or take mass transit whenever possible, and to use the most fuel efficient vehicle that meets your needs. The U.S. Department of Energy has been exploring fuel switching for years to biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen, and electricity to both reduce our vulnerability and to cut down on climate change emissions.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 has an excellent analysis of how we can reduce our climate change emissions by 25% by 2020. It calls for a 7.6% reduction from transportation. 4.5% would be from increased federal fuel efficiency standards; 1.7% from various mass transit and smart growth strategies; and 1.6% from strategies to get people to use their cars less.
We are very fortunate that Greenfield is such a compact and walkable community. There is much we can do to cut our energy use in this sector.
Following are additional statistics about our transportation energy use from the Greenfield Energy Audit:
In 2008, as a community we spent $32.5 million on transportation to travel approximately 152 million miles – almost all the way to the sun and back! Of this, approximately 93% of the miles driven were by cars, SUV, and pick-up trucks. As a community, we own almost 14,000 vehicles. The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) estimates that we each drive approximately 11,000 miles per year, which is 1,000 miles less than the national average of 12,000 miles. The Franklin County Energy Study (1970) estimated that approximately 75% of the fuel used for transportation is used by residents.
We also looked at vehicle types used in 2001 and 2008 using data on vehicles registered in Greenfield from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. We discovered that, much like the rest of the nation, many of us have shifted from cars to SUVs or pick-ups. In 2008, SUVs and pick-ups used more than half of the fuel used for cars and SUVs/Pick-ups combined, but they only traveled 37% of the miles. Overall, the number of vehicles owned in Greenfield, and by inference the number of miles traveled, did not change much over the study period, but our fuel use increased.
As for mass transit, according to the Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA), in 2008, ridership doubled on two of our bus routes - the ones that went east and south.
On a going forward basis, we can get good data on the number of vehicles traveling on our in-town streets from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), and good mass transit data from FRTA. This data will be useful for setting goals and measuring our progress in the transportation sector.