Tool$ Tuesday: What’s Your Vehicle’s Carbon ‘Tire-print’?

BY Paul Solman  February 1, 2011 at 11:01 AM EST

Today’s “Tool$ We Use” features three on the carbon emissions you generate by driving, with a bonus global warming video attached for your viewing discomfort.

Making Sense

On the broadcast Monday: a story about electric cars, with a focus on GM’s Chevy Volt. Electric cars are touted as green and cost efficient, but are they REALLY that much cheaper and greener than regular old gas-guzzlers? Brad Berman, editor of PluginCars.com and HybridCars.com, wanted to find out how they compare.

“I decided to undertake a comparison of C02 emissions and cost for a typical gas, hybrid and electric car,” Berman wrote about his project. “I specifically wanted to know about the relative carbon emissions of pure electric cars in different parts of the country, depending on the coal/renewable mix at various electricity generation plants.”

His estimates?

“[F]or a myriad of reasons — from less local air pollution to greater reduction of our dependence on foreign oil and lower fuel costs–the pure electric car is as green as it gets,” he concluded.

We thought these numbers were pretty interesting. But not everyone agrees with his analysis. You can check out his reasoning, and some challenges from his readers.

And here are some tools that allow you to check the carbon costs of your vehicle:

The Clean Air Conservancy was forced to close its doors at the end of the year, due to a funding crunch. But its driving carbon calculator remains up online and is easy and chastening to use. Just plug in a few basics about your vehicle and driving habits and voila: how much C02 you emit and how much it would have cost, before CAC closed, to offset it.

Click here to use the Clean Air Conservancy’s calculator.

Terrapass gives a more conservative estimate of your mileage efficiency (or at least it did for my 2001 Acura) and includes other aspects of carbon usage as well.

Click here to use the Terrapass calculator.

Third, The Nature Conservancy also has an in-depth carbon calculator, but users cannot enter just vehicle information.

Click here to use The Nature Conservancy’s calculator.

Finally, perhaps the most effective guilt trip “tool” of all: this video from the Blue Man Group, up on YouTube since 2006 with more than 700,000 views to date.

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions _Follow Paul on Twitter._