Friday, June 1, 2012

Climate Change Follow Up

In our Meet Rideshare series, our Environment post went into some detail about the Local Pollutants we hope Rideshare can reduce. However, I thought we skimped a bit on the Climate Change aspect of it. I thought we might go into a little more detail today about Rideshare’s climate impact and why, in a world where climate change is the first thought of many an environmentally conscious consumer, Rideshare is not playing up this aspect of its business more.

Rideshare is committed to being an environmentally responsible company, and to being a force for good in the world, while still returning a good profit for our investors. However, the reason we don’t play up the climate change aspect of our business more is simply because we cannot make the same impact on Climate Change as we can on Local Pollutants.

To understand why this is, recall from our earlier post that unlike Nitrous Oxides or Mercury, Carbon is not a local pollutant. That is, carbon emissions affect the whole planet, and in the exact same way and to the same degree, regardless of where they have been emitted from. Climate change is thus the sum of ALL carbon emissions from all over the planet. Although Rideshare’s service will indeed reduce carbon emissions just as it will reduce emissions of other pollutants, these reductions will not have the same impact as they would in the case of other pollutants. The climate change we experience is just as much a result of China’s emissions as of ours, and vice versa. While Rideshare will reduce the amount of carbon emissions in the city of Los Angeles considerably, that does the city of Los Angeles little good. It represents only a drop in the bucket of ALL the carbon emissions of the world, which is the only number that matters.

Nevertheless, no one should doubt that Rideshare does have a positive impact on climate change. Every gallon of gasoline we save by keeping a car at home reduces carbon emissions by roughly 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent. The best way to think about this might be to translate that figure into a dollar value. Currently several companies offer carbon offsets for roughly $10/short ton, or roughly $0.01 per gallon of gasoline. Each corporate commuter who leaves his own car in the garage and rides with someone else is saving roughly 3 gallons of gasoline a day on average(20 miles each trip plus idling delays). Divided evenly between the driver and the passenger, this translates to roughly $0.015 per day of carbon “benefits”. However, many experts have suggested that the market undervalues carbon offsets, because the United States does not currently cap carbon emissions. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, a more “socially responsible” carbon cost(i.e. one that accounts for all the negative externalities of carbon) would be $80/short ton, which would translate into daily benefits of $0.18 per member, or roughly $90 per year assuming they used our service regularly.