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  1. #1
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    Looking for stats on energy saved by commuting

    Can anyone point me to a reputable source on this. My wife is the coordinator for our local Earth Day festival and I told her I would come up with some info about cutting pollution and energy usage by commuting on a bike. It has turned out much harder to find than I expected. And I thought I was pretty good with Google. Any help is appreciated.

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    Just thought I'd add that I'm looking for some quick simple stats we can put on a poster that people will see and hopefully remember later. Things like amount of CO˛ decreased if everyone in the US commuted once a week. You know simple stuff that will strike people as significant without a huge commitment on their part. We are trying to stay away from flyers/handouts on paper (it is Earth Day after all).

  3. #3
    Non-Custom Member zeytoun's Avatar
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    -1 gallon of gasoline creates 19.8 pounds of carbon
    -314 million metric tons of carbon produced annually by cars in the US
    -driven 2.6 trillion miles, at a fuel efficiency of 19.6 mpg
    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2...6-06-28-03.asp

    Tour de France riders get about 300 "mpg" (one gallon of gas has 3100 calories, which will take these guys 300 miles, on average)
    An efficient, 15mph cyclist gets over 900 "mpg"
    http://auto.howstuffworks.com/question527.htm

    So, if some schmuck argues that bicyling uses energy too, you can shoot back, "yeah, 2% of the energy that the average US car does."
    I am a mutated sig Virus. Please put me in your sig so that I can continue to replicate and mutate, blah!.

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    Well, this was published in Harper's Index on October 8, 2006:

    109 Energy, in megawatt hours, saved over 35 years by a bicycle rider who does not drive a car.
    National Energy Technology Laboratory (Pittsburgh)


    You may want to think twice about including the follow-up stat:


    9/10 Portion of these savings that will be used up over the extra years the biker will live.
    Karl T. Ulrich, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia);

  5. #5
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    There was a guy on NPR Science Friday last week I think. He said that by his calculations (by his own admission, they're under attack) walking a mile consumes more fuel than driving a mile because of the intense use of fossil fuels in US agriculture and food transportation. He probably assumed worst case but still it's something to think about.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  6. #6
    Cat None SDRider's Avatar
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    Well, I calculated that I use about 112 fewer gallons of gas a year by commuting to work by bike just twice a week. With gas at $3.50/gallon right now that's about $400 a year.

  7. #7
    Neat - w/ ice on the side dalmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
    There was a guy on NPR Science Friday last week I think. He said that by his calculations (by his own admission, they're under attack) walking a mile consumes more fuel than driving a mile because of the intense use of fossil fuels in US agriculture and food transportation. He probably assumed worst case but still it's something to think about.
    This is assuming that the person walking (or biking) is consuming extra calories to replace those used for transportation. That's an assumption I'm not willing to accept.

    Or when viewed from the other side, this assumes that the person in the car consumes less calories because they are driving instead of walking or biking. That's even tougher for me to accept.
    Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more. Bark less.

    Change you can believe in - Bigfoot Nessie 08

  8. #8
    Mad scientist w/a wrench
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    new american dream might have some numbers...not sure about their reputability.
    Proudly wearing kit that doesn't match my frame color (or itself) since 2006.

  9. #9
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    Since we who commute are generally not gaining weight, but those who drive are, it might be safe to assume we have not added to our consumption. We are just using it instead of storing it for an oversized casket someday...

    I don't notice those around me eating less than I - just getting fatter is all.

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    This is great stuff. Just the kind of thing I am looking for--thanks! My wife says thanks too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
    There was a guy on NPR Science Friday last week I think. He said that by his calculations (by his own admission, they're under attack) walking a mile consumes more fuel than driving a mile because of the intense use of fossil fuels in US agriculture and food transportation. He probably assumed worst case but still it's something to think about.
    I'm not so sure about that either. I haven't done much walking to get places but I do know that when I am marathon training (70-80 miles per week) I only take in a few hundred more calories than I do when I am not training for anything. I am pretty sure I wouldn't require any more energy intake to walk a mile. Besides, how many people do you see eating in the car--quite a few (including me sometimes).

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    Quote Originally Posted by crtreedude
    Since we who commute are generally not gaining weight, but those who drive are, it might be safe to assume we have not added to our consumption. We are just using it instead of storing it for an oversized casket someday...

    I don't notice those around me eating less than I - just getting fatter is all.
    You nailed it!

  13. #13
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    As your conditioning improves, your energy consumption drops, this has to figured in. For example, when I was a clyde (at one point nearly 90 lbs more than now) for me to ride 20 miles would have burned a lot of calories - just moving me from the seat of my car to the seat of my chair might have used more calories than my commute now!

    Our bodies get more efficient and that translates to saved calories during the day. I have workers who are thin and I can't believe how little food they need. It isn't like they are starving, they are just incredibly efficient in what they do.

  14. #14
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dalmore
    This is assuming that the person walking (or biking) is consuming extra calories to replace those used for transportation. That's an assumption I'm not willing to accept.

    Or when viewed from the other side, this assumes that the person in the car consumes less calories because they are driving instead of walking or biking. That's even tougher for me to accept.
    To make a fair/scientific comparison you would HAVE to assume that each person had an average consumption adequate to maintain their weight. If a cyclist/walker wasn't consuming extra calories they would wither away to nothing. Assuming that every car-driver is continuously gaining weight is incorrect as well.

    Throwing in off the wall statistics like: "cyclists have more clothes to wash" and require more energy as a result - just distort the core issue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS
    To make a fair/scientific comparison you would HAVE to assume that each person had an average consumption adequate to maintain their weight. If a cyclist/walker wasn't consuming extra calories they would wither away to nothing. Assuming that every car-driver is continuously gaining weight is incorrect as well.

    Throwing in off the wall statistics like: "cyclists have more clothes to wash" and require more energy as a result - just distort the core issue.
    First of all, a body is not like a car engine. All the calories consumed aren't either burned via walking/cycling or turned into fat. I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor, but I imagine that the body's metabolism adjusts with caloric intake/usage along with the efficiency of the diagestive system. In any case, wherever the calories actually end up going, it should be quite clear that people's eating habits are not strongly correlated with their exercise habits.

    Second of all, what about the food eaten by the gas station attendents? Or the energy spent repairing the roads? The bicycle industry in itself is much more efficient than the auto industry and that has to be taken into account too.

    Third of all, energy consumption is not necessarily a bad thing. It is unsustainable energy consumption which is a bad thing. Some of the energy used by cycling is used in a sustainable way. The rest of the consumption (ie the gas used to drive the tractors on the farms), can be made more sustainable too. Which means that cycling not only saves energy, but it also creates an opportunity to save even more energy still. In other words, cycling magnifies any energy saved in food production in addition to the nominal energy saved.
    Last edited by makeinu; 04-18-07 at 04:47 PM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
    There was a guy on NPR Science Friday last week I think. He said that by his calculations (by his own admission, they're under attack) walking a mile consumes more fuel than driving a mile because of the intense use of fossil fuels in US agriculture and food transportation. He probably assumed worst case but still it's something to think about.
    Also, his assumption is based on a typical American shopping at their mega grocery store where the plant based food is fertilized with petroleum based fertilizer and sprayed with petroleum based pesticides. That produce is then trucked across the country in refridgerated trucks to the store

    The typical American eats a diet heavy in animal products which eat petroleum grown corn and soy, trucked from Iowa to feedlots in Kansas and Colorado, then trucked to the slaughterhouse. The packaged meat is then trucked in refridgerated trucks to your meat department.

    Eating organic, if bought at a Whole Foods/Wild Oats type place is likely only marginally better.

    The way to really reduce the energy it takes to put your calories on your plate is to eat local. Try to shop at a local grocery store, not a mega store, and then choose locally grown and produced products. For example, choose the King Arthur flour if you live on the East coast and the Bob's Red Mill in the Pacific NW. Shop at your local Coop instead of Whole Foods. Better yet, buy from your farmers market. Get to know the person who grew your food, who raised the chickens that laid the eggs you eat. Find a local community supported agriculture (CSA). Here is a link to help find a local CSA http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml

    Michael Pollan's recent book "The Omnivore's Dilemma" is a gread read on this subject.

  17. #17
    Neat - w/ ice on the side dalmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS
    To make a fair/scientific comparison you would HAVE to assume that each person had an average consumption adequate to maintain their weight. If a cyclist/walker wasn't consuming extra calories they would wither away to nothing. Assuming that every car-driver is continuously gaining weight is incorrect as well.

    Throwing in off the wall statistics like: "cyclists have more clothes to wash" and require more energy as a result - just distort the core issue.
    Distortion of the core issue is exactly what is happening. The research and statistics being banded about are calculated to show that industrialized meat production is such a huge source of pollution that a person who eats only beef would consume more fossil fuels walking a mile than driving that mile.

    Twisting that around to argue that driving is more energy efficient than walking is distorting the core issue of that argument - the issue of pollution from meat production.
    Current favorite bumper sticker: Wag more. Bark less.

    Change you can believe in - Bigfoot Nessie 08

  18. #18
    34x25 FTW! oboeguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zeytoun
    -1 gallon of gasoline creates 19.8 pounds of carbon
    -314 million metric tons of carbon produced annually by cars in the US
    -driven 2.6 trillion miles, at a fuel efficiency of 19.6 mpg
    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2...6-06-28-03.asp

    Tour de France riders get about 300 "mpg" (one gallon of gas has 3100 calories, which will take these guys 300 miles, on average)
    An efficient, 15mph cyclist gets over 900 "mpg"
    http://auto.howstuffworks.com/question527.htm

    So, if some schmuck argues that bicyling uses energy too, you can shoot back, "yeah, 2% of the energy that the average US car does."
    And said energy is renewable! Don't forget that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sknhgy
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  19. #19
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS

    Throwing in off the wall statistics like: "cyclists have more clothes to wash" and require more energy as a result - just distort the core issue.

    This is something I have actually thought about, that and the extra shower I take everyday now.

  20. #20
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    http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/tdm/pub...tivespeeds.pdf

    the above document and several others make a valid point about the real cost of driving.

    In other words figure all the other stuff like savings on gas and greenhouse gases produced etc and then start to figure in the actual cost of the automobile.

    For example I commute on a bicyle that cost less than $500 brand new. I spend less than $150/year to maintain that bicycle.

    The average cost of a new automobile is $27,958

    Insurance= avg. $850.

    then add yearly cost of gas/oil/tolls/parking/maintenance= $7-8,000

    total= 36,808

    Since the average yearly wage is $ 40,459

    an auto costs an awful lot more of my time to drive than one would think.

    even if an average American worker bought a new commuting bicycle once a year it would still cost them only 1/63 of their income to do so.

    To do the same thing with an auto would cost 90% of their yearly income.

    Translates into a lot more hours at work just to get to work a little faster.

    Suddenly that extra few minutes to get somewhere by bicycle is ultimately a time saver.

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    Very good. I am not suprised but impressed at the wealth of information. Thanks again.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
    There was a guy on NPR Science Friday last week I think. He said that by his calculations (by his own admission, they're under attack) walking a mile consumes more fuel than driving a mile because of the intense use of fossil fuels in US agriculture and food transportation. He probably assumed worst case but still it's something to think about.
    In addition to what others have said, you would also have to figure that eliminating one or two sources of pollution (or energy consumption, or whatever) is easier than eliminating many. Instead of applying research resources to cleanign up cars, agriculture, power plants, etc, if everybody walked, we could apply ALL the research to cleaning up agriculture (which, in theory, would provide faster, better results).

  23. #23
    Member Michael H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzman
    http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/tdm/pub...tivespeeds.pdf

    the above document and several others make a valid point about the real cost of driving.

    In other words figure all the other stuff like savings on gas and greenhouse gases produced etc and then start to figure in the actual cost of the automobile.

    For example I commute on a bicyle that cost less than $500 brand new. I spend less than $150/year to maintain that bicycle.

    The average cost of a new automobile is $27,958

    Insurance= avg. $850.

    then add yearly cost of gas/oil/tolls/parking/maintenance= $7-8,000

    total= 36,808

    Since the average yearly wage is $ 40,459

    an auto costs an awful lot more of my time to drive than one would think.

    even if an average American worker bought a new commuting bicycle once a year it would still cost them only 1/63 of their income to do so.

    To do the same thing with an auto would cost 90% of their yearly income.

    Translates into a lot more hours at work just to get to work a little faster.

    Suddenly that extra few minutes to get somewhere by bicycle is ultimately a time saver.
    While I appreciate the point that you're trying to make, it's a rather drastic picture to paint as most car owners don't buy a new car every year (at least I've never met anyone who has), and a great deal of people buy used. Divide the cost of the new car up over 5 years, and the numbers come down significantly. It's still a great deal more than using a bike, but nowhere near 90% of one's average income.

  24. #24
    Member Michael H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzman
    [URL="http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/tdm/publications/pubs/effectivespeeds.pdf"]
    even if an average American worker bought a new commuting bicycle once a year it would still cost them only 1/63 of their income to do so.

    To do the same thing with an auto would cost 90% of their yearly income.

    Translates into a lot more hours at work just to get to work a little faster.

    Suddenly that extra few minutes to get somewhere by bicycle is ultimately a time saver.
    Also, you're implying that the vehicle's net worth at the end of the year is 0. While the vehicle will depreciate, you will get some of your investment back as a trade in.

  25. #25
    Senior Member OneArmedScissor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael H
    Also, you're implying that the vehicle's net worth at the end of the year is 0. While the vehicle will depreciate, you will get some of your investment back as a trade in.
    most of the time it is a very small marginal percentage of the initial investment, especially if you keep the car for 5 years.

    Usually this is enough for a car, bought in mid model cycle, to be phased out with a new model.

    depreciation is also much worse on a domestic automaker's car.

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