By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
A team led by Purdue University has created a Google Earth tool that could one day allow you to see carbon dioxide emissions down to the building level.
The Vulcan project now allows you to view how much heat-trapping CO2 emissions in each county are coming from factories, power plants, aircraft, vehicles, and industrial and residential sectors. There is a video about it at the end of this post.
It's not new information - the Vulcan Project used 2002 emissions data from the EPA to develop the map - but it will get more current and detailed as collection data improves. For now, it's a fascinating visual way to understand where the bulk of our emissions are coming from. For example, click on Suffolk County in Massachusetts and you'll see CO2 emissions were 1,799,247 metric tons in 2002. More rural Bristol County, meanwhile, released a whopping 3,872,329 metric tons. Why? Because Brayton Point, New England's largest coal-burning power plant, is in Somerset.
"We hope to eventually turn it into an interactive space where the public will feed information into the system to create an even finer picture of emissions down to the street and individual building level,'' said Kevin Gurney, who led the project for Purdue.
Ultimately, Gurney's team would like to fill in information from 1985 to the present and then update the data every six months, he said.
"This is the first step," Gurney said. "We'll keep adding more information to enrich it. We hope to eventually get feedback from the public about energy use and activity that allows us to include even more detailed information. This would create a network of businesses and individuals that would become part of the Vulcan system and part of the scientific effort."
The group also hopes to expand to Canada and Mexico.