That doesn't make telecommuting a loser, of course. Depending on where Mr. Wheeler lives, there may be very few days in which he actually needs to turn on the heat. On warm days, staying home saves an average of 13.5 pounds of carbon dioxide. And there are lots of little changes he could make to tip the telecommuting lifestyle in the Earth's favor, even in the dead of winter. For example, he could improve his home's insulation (or just wear a sweater in the winter), ditch his personal fax and printer, and behave more like he's in the office and less like he's lounging around the house.
The scenario is a little different for the 5 percent of Americans who commute to work by train or bus. If they commuted the same distance as Mr. Wheeler, their rides would each generate about 7.1 pounds of CO2 per day, or 1,658 pounds annually. In that case, the inefficiencies of working at home clearly outweigh the transportation savings on cold days. On warm days, it's better to work at home, and on those that don't require climate control, it doesn't really matter whether you go into the office.
If you really want to help the Earth, and you're not just exploiting the Lantern for an excuse to watch Judge Judy when you should be working, all of this points to one simple answer: Abandon your car first, then worry about whether you'd rather take the bus or stay home.
Is there an environmental quandary that's been keeping you up at night? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org, and check this space every Tuesday.