'Today' Saves Energy, But Just for Today

     Building off the popularity of its “Ends of the Earth” jet-setting extravaganza in November, the “Today” show on January 22 kicked off a four-day series called “Today Goes Green” to encourage viewers to be more environmentally friendly.

     “Too many of us in this country commute to work alone,” host Matt Lauer said. “And the planet is paying the price. Since the average car pumps twice its weight in carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, driving alone is a major factor in greenhouse gas buildup. So wait ‘til you hear how much fuel we could save in this country if each car carried just one more person.”

     Because most Americans must not understand the theory of carpooling, “Today” illustrated the concept by having hosts Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Ann Curry and Al Roker carpool to the NBC studios in New York City one morning. But don’t expect them to keep it up – even though Vieira said the “Today Goes Green” series was about “showing you what we’re doing to try to help save the environment.”

     When Vieira proposed that “we could do this every day, guys,” Lauer sarcastically added, “We could also live in a tree for the rest of our lives.” Roker suggested, “Let’s eat some Grape Nuts.”

     After the carpool, Vieira said it “worked pretty well for us” and “was a lot of fun.” But the carpool itself seemed less enjoyable and demonstrated why people don’t like to carpool.

     For starters, all the hosts except Lauer had to get up earlier than usual. A chauffeured car picked Vieira up first around 3:30 a.m. The lucky Lauer was picked up last, around 4:45.

     Lauer experienced another problem associated with carpooling: being at the mercy of carpoolers’ punctuality. At one point he called Curry’s cell phone to find out if they were running late.

     Curry, Vieira and Roker were crammed into the back seat. And Roker exemplified the annoying carpooler by playing loud music and tooting on noisemakers during the segment, prompting Vieira to note, “There’s always one, and that’s why carpools eventually fall apart.”

     Lauer seemed the least enthusiastic about the stunt. When Curry mentioned that seasoned carpoolers engage in good conversations on their way to work, he retorted, “I hope we never get to that point.”

     Vieira admitted that “we only did it one day,” and Roker later explained that they can’t carpool every day because the hosts live different directions from the studio. But just because (chauffeured) carpooling doesn’t work for television superstars doesn’t mean it’s not good enough for you.

     “But there are 32 millions of gas could be saved each day if every car carried just one extra passenger,” Roker said, adding that “we happen to live in a city that has one of the best mass transit systems going. In fact, I myself am a big fan of the Subway. I take it home at least once a week, probably twice.”

     The EPA estimates that cars emit 19.4 pounds of CO2 for every gallon of gasoline burned. If the “Today” hosts live an average of 10 miles from the studio, their collective morning commute would be 40 miles. Assuming 25 miles per gallon, the four would together burn 1.6 gallons of gasoline per morning, emitting 31.04 pounds of CO2.

     The hosts admitted their carpool wasn’t efficient because they come from different directions. But assuming it was perfectly efficient for them to drive together, they could save 1.2 gallons of gas every morning, or prevent 23.28 pounds of CO2 from being emitted.

    At that rate, it would take 2,148 days to offset the estimated emissions put out by the November “Today” show series “Ends of the Earth,” when hosts jetted to far away places to illustrate the climate in peril. At 5 work days a week, 50 weeks per year, it would take Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al more than eight and a half years of carpooling to offset the series. See you in 2016, guys!