Carbon Offset Trading for Cyclists

פורסם: 12 בדצמ׳ 2010, 5:38 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 12 בדצמ׳ 2010, 11:31 ]
Published on 12/12/2009

Well, it’s raining hard in Redwood Valley, and looks to keep it up for some time. We’ve had a few brief spells of wet this fall, but the current “atmospheric wave” coming off the central Pacific is set to bring the first sustained relief from record low stream flows in a couple years. So, taking my cue from el Niño, I’ll exercise the better part of valor and stay off the road till, literally, the dust is fully settled. Thus provided with the opportunity for reflection, an idea that has been gestating in the depths for some time has popped to the surface of the unquiet pool that is one’s mind.

Cycling provides ample opportunity (and oxygen) for the mind to roam. Over the miles, the autonomic nervous system’s autopilot function kicks in, tending to the mundane business of locomotion, and consciousness is free to surf the waves of endorphins and elevated blood flows to parts far and wide. Unfortunately, physics has an irritating habit of bursting the thought balloon. Nothing like a flat tire to reaffirm the supremacy of friction over intention, and roadside repair, repair in general, begs the question for the dedicated cyclist “Wouldn’t it be great if I could figure out a way to make this pay for itself?”.

On a physical and philosophical level, the personal payback far outweighs the cost, however unlikely this may seem. On the financial level though, the more you ride, the more you wear stuff out, the more your habit costs in ducats, dinar or dollars. But, setup back from the strictly personal and look at cycling, running or walking as practical means of daily transportation. Expand the cost/benefit analysis from the individual to the context of society at large. According to the World Wildlife Organization

“Bicycling instead of driving will eliminate 20 pounds (9.1 kilos) of personal carbon emissions for every gallon (~4 liter) of gasoline an individual avoids using.” [1 pound = 2.2 kilograms - calculate ; 1 gallon = 3.8 liter - calculate]

Translated to Kilograms/Liters:

"Bicycling instead of driving will eliminate 2.5 kilograms of personal carbon emissions for every liter of gasoline an individual avoids using.”

How this exact figure was arrived at is not clear, but taking it at face value then, an individual cyclist’s annual carbon offset value in dollars per year could be calculated. According to the US DOT,

“The average combined MPG (Miles Per Gallon) for all US cars and light trucks on the road today is 19.8 MPG”.

My GPS says I currently ride about 3K mi/yr, so, if I were driving a fleet average vehicle, I’d be burning about 3k mi/yr/19.8MPG = 151 gal/yr * 20lb/gal = 3030 lb of carbon/ yr. An interesting study published by EcoBusinessLinks shows a very wide range of prices offered by an ever growing array of brokers. For example, one of the best prices currently available in the US (from the offset provider’s standpoint is 29/metric ton.

Carbon Offset Provider Price (US$/Metric ton CO2) Non-profit Projects Types Project Choice Offset Types Product Certification/
Verification*
(Links see below table)
Bonneville Environmental Foundation
USA
$29.00 Yes Renewables No Home, Air, Business, Event Green-e Climate Certified

Being an optimist then, my 3030 lbs (1.374 am tons) would be valued at $38.85/yr, or 1.3 cents/mile, enough to buy 1 good tire. There are any number of ways to quibble with the derivation above, but it’s the first time I’ve seen this figure calculated, so it a least provides a point of departure for discussion. I’ve been riding for almost 40 years with no subsidy, and will continue without one. But the object of this exercise is, as noted above, to look at cycling in a larger frame. There are considerations beyond just carbon offset value. In that 40 years of riding, I’ve been to the hospital twice (both times as the result of a cycling accident). I’ve never needed to visit a doctor for anything but routine checkups, my vital signs are consistent with a very healthy 30 year old and, at 55, I take no medications and can anticipate needing none for the foreseeable future, as long as I continue riding.

So, perhaps I can reasonably expect to end my cycling career in an abrupt fashion, thus saving the VA and Medicare significant expense. I am my own “Death Panel”, much to the relief of any number of folks, no doubt. It could then be argued that the (hopefully) immanent health care reform legislation should reasonably take the health care cost savings represented by an active lifestyle into account when allotting subsidies and calculating rates. A comprehensive program to evaluate the societal costs and benefits of lifestyle choices in general and recurrent vigorous physical activity specifically could go some way toward encouraging these behaviors, reducing medical costs and transportation infrastructure, ultimately benefiting the individual, society at large and the global environment as a whole.

Last night on the call-in show on our local public radio station, an irate caller asked “why should I be forced to pay increased insurance rates to cover people who smoke and engage in extreme sports?”. A good question I think, as long as the lifestyle can of worms is fully opened up. If I were of the same mind set, I could just as easily ask ‘why should I be forced to subsidize the health costs of people who never walk further than from the La-Z-Boy to the refrigerator, whose most highly developed muscle is their remote control/gameboy finger and whose diet consists largely of highly processed food-like substances?”. I’m totally willing to go there but let’s do it not on the basis of quantifiable outcomes like blood pressure, resting heart rate, actual medical expenditures (including psychiatric), stress indices and the like.

Source: emeraldempireadventures.com


Related articles:

Vehicle Calculator

Comments