Lend Your Car, Make $$ and Save the World

Cars are parked 22 hours a day on average 

The costs of car ownership and travel are far higher than anyone realizes: a 100 km total trip costs between 65 and 80 dollars when parking, fuel, wear and tear, insurance, depreciation, repairs are included. A car is usually parked and unused 22 hours a day but still incurs costs. Why not let someone use the car when you’re not and make some money at the same time Robin Chase told me in this 2011 article. She launched Buzzcar in France as part of a strategy for reducing CO2 emissions and congestion in cities.  UPDATE (Feb 2015) Chase’s concept has come to North America – RelayRides is one such peer-to-peer car sharing service you can now try.  — Stephen

By Stephen Leahy

BERLIN, Jun 2, 2011 (IPS)

The world’s more than 850 million cars and small trucks are parked 20 to 22 hours a day. Why not use these vehicles more efficiently by letting other people drive them when the owners aren’t, asks Robin Chase, CEO of Buzzcar, a car- sharing network to be launched shortly in France.

“Sharing vehicles is much more efficient and represents a huge opportunity,” Chase told some 800 attendees from more than 50 countries at the OECD’s annual International Transport Forum (ITF) in Leipzig last week. The Forum is an intergovernmental organisation for the transport sector involving 52 different nations.

The ITF projects there will be three times as many cars – an eye-popping 2.5 billion – by 2050 according to its Transport Outlook 2011 report released at the meeting. Adding that many more vehicles in a sustainable way is an “extraordinary challenge”, said Jack Short, Secretary General of the ITF.

The vast majority of this growth will come from the developing countries since travel by passenger vehicle in a number of high-income countries has not increased, and even declined in some countries. Short acknowledged making such projections is risky because many factors such as lower economic growth, congestion in cities or new technologies will have an impact on levels of car ownership in future.

And the Transport Outlook report did not factor in the potential for car-sharing to offer personal mobility without car ownership.

Buzzcar is a car sharing service where car-owners in a city or town allow their idle cars to be used by other local citizens in exchange for getting about 70-75 per cent of the rental fee, Chase told IPS in an interview. Even when a car is parked it costs their owners money, she says. The average cost of owning and operating car is 8,000 to 12,000 dollars a year even if it sits parked 22 hours a day. (update: more like $9,000 to 14,000 according to auto clubs)

Buzzcar is an opportunity for car owners to get better value out of their vehicles and to help with ever- rising costs of car ownership. More importantly car sharing reduces the need for car ownership overall, she says.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

Chase was a co-founder of Zipcar, a U.S.-based car-rental network with more than a half million members where people rent cars by the hour from easy-to-access neighbourhood lots or stations. Zipcar owns some 8,000 rental cars. She then went on to start GoLoco, a ride sharing company in which people pay to ride along with others in the network, and the drivers take a cut of the fees. Continue reading

Ozone Hole 2009 – Bigger than North America – 24 million sq km

Picture 7

I’m not doing a full article on this year’s Antarctic ozone hole but you should know that the maximum size appears to have peaked at 24 million sq km, less than the 2006 record year 27 million sq km. Although some media reported this as a downward trend, it is too soon to say because ozone depletion is a complicated process and affected by local weather conditions.

Chilean Children Warned to Stay Indoors

The hole moves and shifts overhead like a unseen gigantic amoeba and on Oct 9 officials in southern Chile warned residents that the hole had extended itself over Punta Arenas and warned children to stay indoors and avoid exposure to the very hi-level UV rays.

Children hiding indoors during the day at the southern tip of Chile could have been the fate for much of the planet without the Montreal Protocol treaty 21 years ago to eliminate some of the ozone destroying chemicals used in deodorants and refrigerants.

This ought to be crucial cautionary tale for climate change.

Some of my previous articles on ozone:

Skin Would Fry in 5 Mins Without Ozone Treaty says NASA – Precautionary Lesson for Climate

Monster Ozone Hole (Again) – But your skin would fry in 3 mins without 20-yr old Ozone Treaty

*Skin Cancer Rising Despite New Ozone Deal to Cut CO2 Emissions

*Ozone Hole is Back and Bigger Than Ever

Ozone Treaty May Hold Key to Halting Climate Change

moonlit cactus - peruBy Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Aug 25 (IPS)

Will the world take the easy step to phase out “super” greenhouse gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – using the existing Montreal Protocol ozone treaty?

Doing so would be equivalent to preventing the release of 118 to 224 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency.

That’s vitally important.

The latest science shows humanity cannot put more than another 700 billion tonnes into the atmosphere over the next 40 years without risking dangerous climate change. At current rates of carbon emissions, that limit will be exceeded in half that time.

“An HFC phase-down under the Montreal Protocol will do far more for climate protection than the Kyoto Protocol has accomplished in its entire history or than Copenhagen will achieve in the next decade,” said Samuel LaBudde, senior U.S. climate campaigner for the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

“And it will do so at a fraction of the cost of securing reductions in other sectors and much faster as well,” LaBudde told IPS.

The leaders of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico committed to “work together under the Montreal Protocol to phase down the use of HFCs” earlier this month at the North American Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico. This follows a similar commitment made by G8 leaders in July.

Primarily used in refrigerators and air conditioners, HFCs are the standard replacement chemicals for those that were thinning the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. Although HFCs pose no ozone risks, they typically have a global warming potential hundreds or even many thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2), hence the “super greenhouse gas” label.

The number of the world’s estimated 1.5 -1.8 billion refrigerators, 1.1 billion home and 400 million mobile (auto) air conditioners is expected to grow dramatically as developing nations like China and India modernise and increase use of HFCs.

A July study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that such a skyrocketing use of HFCs will have a significant impact on the climate at projected growth rates by 2050, negating much of future efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

“Phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is a brilliant strategy,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, an international environmental NGO.

“This is the treaty that never fails to deliver. It’s already phased out 96 chemicals by 97 percent, and it’s ready to tackle these super greenhouse gases,” Zaelke said in a release.

Two small island nations, the Federated States of Micronesia and Mauritius, were the first to campaign to amend the Montreal Protocol to tackle HFCs at a July meeting of signatories. Ironically, under the Protocol, richer countries provide financing to poor countries to replace ozone-destroying refrigerants with HFCs.

Many country delegates felt it is the responsibility of the Montreal Protocol to prevent the further commercialisation and prolific use of HFCs even though it is not an ozone-depleting chemical.

“The support of North American leaders is appreciated,” said Ambassador Yosiwo George from the Federated States of Micronesia. The tiny Pacific island nation is threatened by rising sea levels from global warming and is advocating for a 90 percent HFC phase out by 2030.

For full story see here


Skin Would Fry in 5 Mins Without Ozone Treaty says NASA – Precautionary Lesson for Climate

ozone-hole-sept-08Disaster avoided.   If the world didn’t agree to cut back on ozone destroying chemicals that produce the annual polar ozone holes dangerous UV radiation would have increased a whopping 650 per cent by the year 2065 a new NASA study has found. By then two thirds of the protective ozone layer would have vanished creating a global ozone hole.

Five minutes of summer sun would burn skin in the mid-latitude regions like New York, London, Toronto. And it would be far worse in other regions.

And because those same chemicals are potent greenhouse gases the Earth would be 4 degrees warmer by then well past the critical tipping tip of 2 degrees scientists say we dare not exceed.

The world would have become a “real horrible place”, said NASA scientists.

I covered this in an IPS article last September  and how world leaders took a precautionary and averted catastrophe:

“In hard economic times, protecting the environment is often seen as a luxury — or ignored completely. But had that attitude prevailed 20 years ago when it came to taking action to protect the ozone layer, skin cancer rates would have soared and climate change would be even more dramatic than it is today. “

Monster Ozone Hole (Again) – But your skin would fry in 3 mins without 20-yr old Ozone Treaty

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada , Sep 16 (IPS) – In hard economic times, protecting the environment is often seen as a luxury — or ignored completely. But had that attitude prevailed 20 years ago when it came to taking action to protect the ozone layer, skin cancer rates would have soared and climate change would be even more dramatic than it is today.

[Update April 09: NASA study now shows that without action UV radiation would have increased 650 per cent in mid-latitudes ie Washington DC. OUCH! fried skin in 5 mins or less. http://bit.ly/QJYN%5D

“We forget that things could have been far worse without international action in the form of the Montreal Protocol,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday as part of the annual World Ozone Day celebration.

And things are bad enough.

A massive ozone hole over Antarctica is making its annual appearance at a near record-sized 27 million square kilometres as measured by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Sep. 13. This is the 25th “anniversary of the hole” and it likely has another 50 to 60 years of life left. Continue reading

Skin Cancer Rising Despite New Ozone Deal to Cut CO2 Emissions

Ozone Deal to Cut Down CO2 Emissions

By Stephen Leahy


MONTREAL, Sep 23’07 (IPS) – More than 190 nations agreed this week to combat global warming and accelerate the healing of the ozone layer, although critics say more could have been accomplished.

The sun shone bright and warm here on Friday, the final day of the 19th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer. Outside, caravans of pre-school children in strollers or holding hands as they walked sported hats and long-sleeved shirts to protect their delicate skin.

It can be easy to forget that the sun was not always so dangerous, and that modern society is responsible for putting chemicals into the atmosphere that continue to destroy the ozone layer that protects all life from harmful levels of solar ultraviolet radiation.

[UPDATE: Sept 2009 — Ozone Treaty May Hold Key to Halting Climate Change;

— Ozone Hole 2009 – Bigger than North America – 24 million sq km]]

And we forget that things could have been far worse without international action in the form of the Montreal Protocol, which opened for signature 20 years ago this week.

Sadly, that action came late and was not vigorous enough for millions of people who have or will get skin cancer. Continue reading

The Real Cost of US Strawberries

The Chemical That Must Not Be Named
By Stephen Leahy

MONTREAL, Canada, Sep 20 (IPS) – Delegates from 191 nations are on the verge of an agreement under the Montreal Protocol for faster elimination of ozone-depleting chemicals, but the United States insists it must continue to use the banned pesticide methyl bromide.

Even as another enormous ozone hole forms over the Antarctic this week, the rest of the world appears to be giving in to U.S. demands despite the fact that the use of methyl bromide in developed countries was supposed to have been completely phased out by Jan. 1, 2005 under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

“It’s a black mark on this meeting. It is the chemical that must not be named,” said David Doniger, climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defence Council, a U.S. environmental group.

“There is a powerful lobby group of strawberry and vegetable growers in Washington,” Doniger told IPS.

Methyl bromide is a highly toxic fumigant pesticide which is injected into soil to sterilise it before planting crops. It is also used as a post-harvest decontaminant of products and storage areas. Although it is highly effective in eradicating pests such as nematodes, weeds, insects and rodents, it depletes the ozone layer and poses a danger to human health.

While alternatives exist for more than 93 percent of the applications of methyl bromide, some countries such as the U.S., Japan and Israel claimed that because of regulatory restrictions, availability, cost and local conditions, they had little choice but to continue its use as a pest control. And so despite the ban, the Montreal Protocol allows “critical use exemptions” for countries to continue to use banned substances for a short period of time until they can find a substitute.

In 2006, the United States received an exemption to use 8,000 tonnes of methyl bromide, compared to 5,000 tonnes for the rest of the developed world combined. Continue reading