Monday, January 07, 2008

Cyclists = Carbon Offsets

Here's an original idea that just occurred to me a couple minutes ago: Individuals (or companies) paying other individuals (or companies) to drive their cars less by substituting cycling as a form of carbon offset -- private subsidies to cyclists!

One traditional means of carbon offsetting is to pay a company to plant a bunch of trees in the third world, where tree planting is cheaper. These trees, when mature, would hopefully scrub the air of enough carbon dioxide to offset the CO2 emitted by airline travel or whatever polluting activity was causing one guilt or grief.

So... how about paying people to drive their cars less and ride their bikes more? According to the EPA, the average passenger car in year 2000 pumped out 11,450 pounds of CO2 a year. How much would the carbon offset be worth to reduce by 3/4s that average driver's amount of CO2 emission -- a reduction of 4 1/4 tons a year -- and still allow the person the option of driving it for absolutely essential uses*?

Right now, the going rate for planting trees is $20 per metric ton of carbon offsets. A metric ton is a bit larger than our tons in the U.S. So doing some calculations, our cost in this country comes out to $18.20 per ton of carbon offset. Multiply that by 4 1/4 tons of CO2 saved by driving less... gives us a subsidy of... $77.35 per year.

Okay, not such a great idea. So what you got, smartypants?!

*Were you thinking that bowling league night and beer runs should be considered "absolutely essential uses" for car transport? Okay, we're not quite into the spirit of things now, are we?


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