In a previous article on this blog: North Americans are the biggest contributors to climate change, we saw that each North American is producing on average 2.5 times more carbon dioxide per capita than each European.
This is extremely interesting, especially for me, being French, married to an American woman, having lived almost all my life in France, except the recent years which I spent in the U.S.
As an introduction, let me quote this article written by an U.S. journalist who now lives in Europe: What Makes Europe Greener than the U.S.?:
Part of the problem is that the U.S. has had the good fortune of developing as an expansive, rich country, with plenty of extra space and cheap energy. Yes, we Americans love our national parks. But we live in a country with big houses. Big cars. Big commutes. Central Air. Big fridges and separate freezers. Clothes dryers. Disposable razors.
So why does each American produce so much more carbon emissions than each European?
I decided to focus on the carbon emissions produced by households. Here is the result based on my online research, and also on the differences I could see while living in the U.S. and Europe, using my common sense, because yes, I have one! (or at least I think so).
Vehicles consume more in the U.S.
Americans have less energy-efficient and bigger cars, consuming more gas than European ones. In Europe, the vast majority of cars are 2 wheel drive, 4 wheel drive cars being an exception. In the U.S., 4 wheel & all-wheel-drive cars are much more common.
As a consequence, in 2016, the average passenger car in the U.S. was consuming 37 miles per gallon (=6.4 liter per 100km), while in Europe it would consume 47 miles per gallon (=5 liter per 100km), a 30% difference.
There are also a lot, and I mean a lot of families owning trucks (what we call pick-up truck in Europe) which consume 3 times more than the average European passenger car. The average gas mileage of the extremely common Ford F150 is 15 miles per gallon (15.7 liters / 100km) for instance.
You can check on New York Times How U.S. Fuel Economy Standards
Compare With the Rest of the World’s
This is undeniably one of the main reason to explain this difference.
So dear fellow Americans, next time you buy a vehicle, please think about that and go for low consumption and smaller cars, it's even better if it's an electric or a hybrid one!
Gas is less taxed in the U.S.
In 2018 in the U.S., the price of regular gas is $3 per gallon (0.7€ per liter), while in France it is $6 per gallon (1.4€ per liter). Basically, it is 2 times cheaper in the U.S. than it is in France.
As a result, Europeans are more conscious to use less their cars or do car sharing.
So dear fellow Americans, for your next trip, think about options to reduce your gas consumption by sharing cars or taking a more power efficient mode of transportation.
There are more vehicles per household in the U.S.
It is extremely common for a household in the U.S. to have several vehicles, sometimes a mobile home, or boat, even jet-ski & quads. In France, it's not the case.
On average, Americans own 2 vehicles per household, French own 1.4 vehicles per household.
So dear fellow Americans, next time you think another extra car, think twice to see if you really, really need it. To produce a vehicle, so much carbon is sent into the atmosphere!
There is less care about electrical consumption in the U.S.
I'm always amazed in the U.S. how air conditioning can be over-used. Even when the temperature is cold outside, some stores keep their air conditioning on, for a reason I can't explain, apart in a sadistic attempt to freeze their guests to the bones.
In France, it is exceptional to have air conditioning, at least in your home. People simply open windows when it's hot.
When I was a kid, nobody had a dryer, even if now it is more common. My parents still hang their clothes in the kitchen, in the home-made drying rack.
When I was a child, whenever I was forgetting to turn off the light when leaving my room or the house, my parents were always telling me:
"please turn off the lights, our home is not Versailles!"
This referred to the Chateau de Versailles, the castle of King Louis XIV, the biggest and most impressive castle in France, where the kings of all the neighboring countries were invited to extravagant parties, the castle lightened by thousands of candles.
They were born just before World War II, and their childhood might have been surrounded by a sense of extreme care about keeping the family budget as low as possible.
Basically, being extremely conscious of turning off lights as well as, turning the heater off when opening the windows, and more generally turning off anything which consumes energy when not using it became a deeply rooted habit for me.
In the U.S., it does not seem to me that there is the same care at all. It seems almost normal to leave the lights on, even in rooms that you're not using for several hours.
So dear fellow Americans, even if lights are not the biggest contributor to global warming, this is an essential reflex to build and have: almost everything that uses power, any electrical appliance contributes to global warming. It's just a matter of building the habit to turn off the switch when not needed.
There is more consumption in general in the U.S.
The U.S. is a society of consumption, and when you live there, you can see it in action: Americans love to buy any kind of stuff! Even, if most of the time it's not really needed.
In France, when I was a kid, we mostly bought what we needed, and nothing superfluous. Now things are changing as we are also part of the growing consumption family, but we are less extravagant than Americans.
So dear fellow American, think twice when you buy another thing. Do you really need this new item?
So dear fellow Americans, with all these identified causes of extra carbon emissions, it's time to act! Because your children, as well as their children, and the children of all the other citizens on the planet as well as their children, will pay the price of your decisions.