Save the environment, at bargain prices

Carbon NeutralI wrote about economical aspects of buying a plugin hybrid car last week and 57% of you said you would buy the car no matter what the savings are. I am sure you care about the environment, why else would you answer the poll the way you did, right? Well, if you truly care for the environment, I suggest you to rethink your decision and invest that $8000 premium money into… saving the environment. Wonder why? I will tell you in just a moment.

One of the people who commented to my blog post questioned the environmental friendliness of a plugin hybrid pointing to the fact that the car runs off of electricity produced by coal powered plants. I will also add that additional components the car has (in particular the battery) take more labor to produce which in turn adds CO2 into the atmosphere. However let’s ignore these facts for now and look into the bottom line.

Is plugin hybrid car an efficient way to save the environment?

For simplicity let’s assume that a hybrid car doesn’t consume any fuel at all and takes the same amount of labor to produce as the regular car. In that case by driving it you would save approximately 4 tons of carbon dioxide from emitting into the atmosphere each year. I estimate that the life span of a plugin hybrid car is approximately 10 years which means it would save 40 tons total.

You probably heard about Kyoto Protocol, the agreement signed by many countries with the aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol created a market of carbon offset certificates where companies reducing emissions get credited by companies not complying to the restrictions.

Chicago Climate Exchange acts as the main broker for the US companies volunteering to participate (unfortunately the US has not officially endorsed the agreement). Only significant emmiters are members of the exchange however the demand produced secondary market and smaller companies and individuals now can buy carbon credits as well. Here are a few reputable organizations selling carbon dioxide credits retail (all prices in US$):

Program Country of origin Price per ton of CO2 US $4 - $25 US $4.2
e-BlueHorizons US $5
LiveNeutral US $6.20
DrivingGreen Ireland $8.00
TerraPass US $8.81 - $11
NativeEnergy US $12
CleanerClimate UK & Australia $15.66
ZeroFootprint Canada $16
ClimateFriendly Australia $18

At these rates, to offset 10 years worth of a gasoline car emissions you would only have to spend around $200. Just think about it. The premium you pay to buy a cleaner car can offset emissions from 40 gasoline cars! Another cool thing is you don’t have to wait till 2010 (or whenever plugin hybrids become available in mass production). You can start saving environment now!

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7 Responses to “Save the environment, at bargain prices”

  1. 1 Stephanie @ PoorerThanYou Sep 1st, 2007 at 9:17 am

    On the other hand, carbon credits only go so far. The money from them is usually invested in windmill farms or other sources of “clean” electricity – but even if all of our electricity came from “clean” sources, we’d still have to switch our cars over to plug-in hybrids or full electric to take advantage of that fact.

    In the end, I think the best thing to do is both: buy carbon credits (or simply invest in windmills yourself) and then buy a car that takes advantage of the electricity produced by them.

  2. 2 Matt Feldman Sep 1st, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    carbon credits are not all created equally. Some projects give more benefit then others, planting trees gives you very little benefit while building a methane capture project gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Offsetting is a great idea after you reduce as much as you can. If your power is generated from nuclear power, then there is no carbon produced at all.

  3. 3 Mike G. Sep 2nd, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    I agree with Matt, if we built more nuclear plants hybrid cars would definitely be the best solution.

    Just don’t build a plant next to my home :)

  4. 4 Yan Sep 2nd, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    The main problems I personally have with buying credits are these:

    1. I want to actually see how my money works. Credits is a way too abstract thing for me.
    2. I don’t have a financial incentive to buy them (I didn’t vote with the majority in that hybrid plugin car poll).

    I feel more confident investing into a solar panel on top of my roof rather than buying credits. In fact I would probably do so today if I knew I will live in my house for another 5-10 years.

  5. 5 David Sep 24th, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Just because you buy the credits, it does not reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. It plants trees, invests in solar power etc…it’s a long way from actually reducing the carbon emissions immediately. Also, by keeping your gas guzzler, you are still emitting all of your own personal carbon. Credits are a “get out of guilt” card, really. I am not saying buying a new hybrid is being fiscally responsible, but if you do, you are A. lowering your own emissions, B. reducing the amount of fossil fuels you need to get around, and C.using electricity to power part of your transportation, which is a better use of coal, etc than a combustion engine. Just my 2 cents.

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