The town of Falmouth’s Climate Action Plan just landed in my email inbox.

Town leaders deserve kudos for the years of work that produced the plan, which “contains strategies and actions that will guide decisions and development for the town until 2050.”

The above quote from the plan is important. These sorts of documents are not merely wistful sentiments; they serve as inspiration, rationale and in some cases mandate for future public policy adoption.

The Falmouth plan, which has been adopted by the Town Council, is well researched and well written. Some of the actions and strategies will prove more impactful than others, and some might be someday be considered just happy talk. Two particularly valuable provisions are the identification of Falmouth’s vulnerabilities and Falmouth’s carbon footprint detail.

The former informs us about critical infrastructure preparation measures that we can and should pursue while there is still time. The latter is especially helpful to all of us – whether individuals or institutions – in identifying how we can reduce our own carbon footprints.

Folks may be surprised to learn that motor vehicle transportation is overwhelmingly Falmouth’s largest source of CO2 emissions. Electrification will certainly help to mitigate vehicle emissions, and appropriately, the plan devotes several pages to EVs, charging stations, etc. But it misses some low-hanging fruit: idling motors.


According to Argonne Labs, a researcher for the U.S. Department of Energy, idling American vehicles waste 6 billion gallons of fuel annually. Using the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, that means 58 million tons of CO2 emissions per year.

I think about it every time I’m turning right from Route 26/100 onto Leighton Road (near Hannaford). There’s a 16-foot-wide grass esplanade to my right that could be reduced to 10 feet, thereby allowing a right turn lane.

Next time you’re driving around Falmouth and you’re stuck at one of our several such intersections that are a little too tight for a turn, or a right turn on red, think about your wasted fuel and your emitted CO2.

Falmouth can and should reengineer intersections to reduce idling vehicles.

Chris O’Neil is a resident of Falmouth and a  public policy professional from Falmouth.

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