The countries who are using less fossil fuels are doing so very probably because they had to ... they did not have great reserves of petroleum and money was obviously a good motivation to fuel their homes and businesses with something other than petroleum products.
What is surprising to me is that Europe has long been paying very high gasoline prices. That should have provided a very good reason to develop an auto that could replace the internal combustion engine? My guess is that ultimately the U.S. will play a greater role in developing that technology than those countries who have had the "motivation" for a longer period of time.
While I surely would support the idea of better public transportation, the advances in that regard in other countries is even more driven by money & downright physical need.
While Japan is a very advanced society, we often forget how little land they have to support their population. Urban apartments are smaller, for example. Not just because they are environment conscious, but because land is in shorter supply v. their population. Some idiosyncrasies are that since home ownership is out of reach for many, they buy cars instead as their status symbols. Then the cars are used sparingly due cost of gas. So, if we try to measure a country's environmental consciousness just by the size of its carbon footprint, we may be overlooking the more compelling reasons for the end result.
Consider also that if people in Vietnam ride bicyles a lot more than we do, it's because they can not afford either the car or the gas.
The U.S. may have the largest carbon footprint per person, but one also can see in today's U.S. recession has rippled into a world-wide recession that the carbon footprint of the U.S. fuels the world economy, not just our own economy.
And we have yet to determine, without reasonable doubt, whether a large carbon footprint is a black a sin as what's going on in countries like Iran or North Korea. Somehow, I don't believe that N Korea's record of social consciousness would indicate concern for conducting its nuclear program with due care for its population or the environmental safety of the rest of the world.