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Electric Bicycles: Environmental Benefits

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Gas-powered cars are the primary source of air pollution in the United States. In addition to their effect on our health, exhaust gases and particles from cars do extensive damage to crops, vegetation, and wildlife. In particular, motor vehicles are a significant source of water pollution. Oil, antifreeze, and small tire particles accumulate on roads and highways; during the rainy season, they are washed into our streams and waterways, causing damage to aquatic life. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the leading sources of metallic pollution in the bay is copper from auto brake pads. Finally, noise pollution from automotive traffic additionally stresses our lives.

Even after counting emissions from power plants, electric bicycles are factor 10 less polluting than gas vehicles. For every 500 miles an electric bike is used in place of a car, an average of 25 gallons of fuel is saved - and this much pollution is prevented:

  • 3.42 pounds of hydrocarbons
  • 25.28 pounds of carbon monoxide
  • 1.77 pounds of nitrogen oxides

[Calculating emissions is an inherently tricky business. There are so many variables that there are no exact numbers in this game. The numbers here were calculated by David Swain, an engineer at the US EPA's Ann Arbor Mobile Emissions Laboratory. An alternative emission factor, listed as the "EPA Mobile 4.1 Model," that cites Carbon Monoxide levels emitted by the average car as 65.3 grams per mile. Using this number the CO savings after 500 miles would be approximately 70 pounds!]

Or you could go pollution free by fueling your Light Electric Vehicle (LEV) with electricity purchased from a "green" power company. Some electric companies supply most or all of their power from wind, sun, or falling water ("green" power). Starting April 1, 1998, Californians can choose their electric utility. You and I can "vote with our dollars" for green power. Here are two websites that review green power companies: http://www.ceert.org/links.html and http://www.nrdc.org/worldview/fwguid.html [The editor chose www.greenmountain.com.]

Your investment in an electric bike can pay dividends beyond U. S. borders. Your purchase supports the growth of an industry that could make a big difference in developing countries. For example, as its economy prospers, China is in the unique position to skip the polluting gas moped and scooter phase altogether and leapfrog directly from human-powered bikes to clean electric vehicles. The pollution savings are staggering, far beyond what the U.S. could alone.

Scientific opinion is clear and close to unanimous that global warming is already happening. CO2 is the main culprit. For every mile a car travels, approximately one pound of CO2 enters the atmosphere. For background info on global warming and the process scientists used to conclude its truth, check http://www.law.pace.edu/env/energy/debateintro.html.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988, to assess scientific information about climate change relevant for international and national policy formulation. More information on the IPCC structure and process is available from the IPCC web site (http://www.ipcc.ch) and the Working Group II web site (http://www.usgcrp.gov/ipcc/).

The Federal government's EPA site focuses on the science and impacts of global warming or climate change, and on actions by governments, corporations, and individuals that help address global warming issues. The site also features climate change related news, events, publications, reports, presentations, and links to other sites. http://www.epa.gov/globalwarming

Other climate-related sites: www.iclei.org www.globalcities.org www.davidsuzuki.org Economist Statement on Climate Change

**** Building one car uses as much material as it takes to make 100 bicycles. (CA Bicycle Coalition)****

Short trips account for most of the cars on the road and most of our air pollution. So, for the health of the planet, leave your car at home and ride your electric bike. "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."Information on other sustainable businesses:

The Sustainable Business Network (SBN) is a focal point for the sustainable business community on the Internet. It includes The SBN Journal, Library, Sustainable Business Opportunities and, Green Dream Jobs. http://www.envirolink.org/sbn

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