Highway to hell [December 13]

A new report released today by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) paints a dire picture of the current patterns of growth in Virginia, linking the energy costs of suburban sprawl to global warming. Transportation accounts for 43 percent of all energy consumed in Virginia, calculates the SELC’s Trip Pollard, and a lot of that gas is guzzled to get people to work from outer suburbs, which were built on cleared forest and farm land that would have mitigated all those CO2 emissions. Bleak! But Pollard says that the Commonwealth can cool it with compact development, green building, cleaner fuels and more money for alternative transportation.

Trip Pollard says that Virginia is trouble when it comes to growth patterns and energy costs, but that things can get better with enough green building and other energy saving changes.

Some of Pollard’s other findings about Virginia development:

• The number of people per household is shrinking—25 percent of households are one-person—while the size of homes is growing: In 2005, the average house size in the South was 2,463 square feet, a 4 percent increase in one year.

• The rate of land development is more than double the rate of population growth, and it’s increasing. Roughly 120 acres a day were developed in the 10 years between 1982-92. In the five years between 1992-97, 188 acres a day were developed—a total of almost 350,000 acres. If current trends continue, some 431,000 acres will be lost over next 20 years, the equivalent of 2,384 average-sized farms.

• Virginians drove 80.3 billion miles in 2005, the equivalent of driving farther than to the sun and back every day.

• Virginia produces more carbon dioxide than many countries, and these emissions rose 34 percent between 1990 and 2004. The estimated total in 2005 was 130 million metric tons.

• Sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay due to global warming could be as much as 27 inches above 1990 levels by 2100.

Previous "This Just In" articles from this week:

Love in the time of Sheffield [December 12]
Love is a Mixtape author to return to town

Long an All-American [December 12]
Wanted: One large trophy case

Jefferson’s descendants killed, wounded in Colorado shootings [December 12]
David Works has tried to reach across the racial divide of TJ’s legacy

Squirrel shuts down Charlottesville [December 11]
Little critter gets fried

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