My carbon footprint on the Tour of California

I just calculated how much I’ll drive to cover the Prologue and Stages 1 through 3 of the Amgen Tour of California. I’ll drive nearly 600 miles, generating about 500 pounds of CO2 Saturday through next Tuesday. For me, that’s two to three months worth of ‘normal’ driving.

This is “only” about $5 worth of carbon offsets to purchase, but a large racing event like the Tour of California undeniably generates tons of carbon dioxide. In 2006, Clif Bar donated enough to offset the entire carbon impact of the Tour that year. Locally, in Santa Cruz, Ecology Action is raffling off a Giant road bike and other prizes, with part of the proceeds used to offset the Santa Cruz portion of the bike race.

I’m a little bit critical of the idea of carbon offsets — I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of offsets, and I think they give many of us (including myself) an easy way out. The harder but possibly better choice might be for me to avoid the Tour of California altogether, or perhaps follow it on the Internet like other people will.

What do you think?

27 Comments

  • Duncan Watson
    February 10, 2009 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    I won't be going to the Tour of California myself but following it remotely. I am making a number of trips this year though but for a few of them I will be taking the train. Amtrak in PNW has some nice facilities for bicycles.

    It is a balancing game, I commute daily by bike and went without a car for 8 years. Some parts of my life just consume more than others. I try to make it up in time.

  • Duncan Watson
    February 10, 2009 - 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I won't be going to the Tour of California myself but following it remotely. I am making a number of trips this year though but for a few of them I will be taking the train. Amtrak in PNW has some nice facilities for bicycles. It is a balancing game, I commute daily by bike and went without a car for 8 years. Some parts of my life just consume more than others. I try to make it up in time.

  • UltraRob
    February 10, 2009 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    I'm with you on the skepticism of carbon offsets. It would make marketing sense for me to buy offsets for my site but I'm not sure it would do much for the environment.

    If I lived close, I'd be driving around like you for the ToC. It's a bit far from Colorado so I'll be reading your coverage and other sites online.

  • UltraRob
    February 10, 2009 - 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I'm with you on the skepticism of carbon offsets. It would make marketing sense for me to buy offsets for my site but I'm not sure it would do much for the environment.If I lived close, I'd be driving around like you for the ToC. It's a bit far from Colorado so I'll be reading your coverage and other sites online.

  • UltraRob
    February 10, 2009 - 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I'm with you on the skepticism of carbon offsets. It would make marketing sense for me to buy offsets for my site but I'm not sure it would do much for the environment.If I lived close, I'd be driving around like you for the ToC. It's a bit far from Colorado so I'll be reading your coverage and other sites online.

  • kwc
    February 10, 2009 - 9:52 am | Permalink

    You don't want to know my footprint for doing cycling photography… I view it as somewhat of a wash — success of events like the ToC is important to changing cycling culture in the United States. As long as we worship NASCAR and have drivers try to run the Astana riders off the road we have greater problems.

  • kwc
    February 10, 2009 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    You don't want to know my footprint for doing cycling photography… I view it as somewhat of a wash — success of events like the ToC is important to changing cycling culture in the United States. As long as we worship NASCAR and have drivers try to run the Astana riders off the road we have greater problems.

  • peter spirito
    February 10, 2009 - 10:11 am | Permalink

    While you are lamenting the possibility of not going to the ToC over 5-bucks of (bogus) offsets, Al Gore has just left his 20 bedroom mansion, got into his huge SUV to fly in his personally chartered jet to vacation in some luxary hotel accross the continent. Do the math. Peter.

  • peter spirito
    February 10, 2009 - 5:11 pm | Permalink

    While you are lamenting the possibility of not going to the ToC over 5-bucks of (bogus) offsets, Al Gore has just left his 20 bedroom mansion, got into his huge SUV to fly in his personally chartered jet to vacation in some luxary hotel accross the continent. Do the math. Peter.

  • murphstahoe
    February 10, 2009 - 11:55 am | Permalink

    Carbon offsets are BS. It's not like you are buying a big carbon vacuum cleaner, and just because your dollars paid to plant some tree doesn't mean that the tree would not be planted anyway.

    The question is – would the planet be able to sustain us if everyone produced the amount of carbon you produce on your own? The answer is probably no even for the most efficient American given that that person blows away tribesmen in Papua New Guinea. But certainly if all Americans dropped to the average that we "Holier than Thou" folk do, things would improve greatly.

    One thing that really ticks me off and I think should be pushed for. I am toying around with putting Solar on our house in Healdsburg. It won't cost much more in installation costs to put in an extra couple of kilowatts, but the panels are expensive. I'd be willing to put in more panels allowing me to amortize the fairly fixed installation costs IF I could sell the extra electricity – which is in fact much closer to a true carbon offset than planting a tree. But PG&E is not required to pay me for that extra generation – which results in people deciding to NOT put in larger installations, which has a direct benefit of generation of clean energy, and an indirect benefit of pumping money into the Solar industry. Sad.

  • murphstahoe
    February 10, 2009 - 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Carbon offsets are BS. It's not like you are buying a big carbon vacuum cleaner, and just because your dollars paid to plant some tree doesn't mean that the tree would not be planted anyway. The question is – would the planet be able to sustain us if everyone produced the amount of carbon you produce on your own? The answer is probably no even for the most efficient American given that that person blows away tribesmen in Papua New Guinea. But certainly if all Americans dropped to the average that we "Holier than Thou" folk do, things would improve greatly.One thing that really ticks me off and I think should be pushed for. I am toying around with putting Solar on our house in Healdsburg. It won't cost much more in installation costs to put in an extra couple of kilowatts, but the panels are expensive. I'd be willing to put in more panels allowing me to amortize the fairly fixed installation costs IF I could sell the extra electricity – which is in fact much closer to a true carbon offset than planting a tree. But PG&E is not required to pay me for that extra generation – which results in people deciding to NOT put in larger installations, which has a direct benefit of generation of clean energy, and an indirect benefit of pumping money into the Solar industry. Sad.

  • murphstahoe
    February 10, 2009 - 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Carbon offsets are BS. It's not like you are buying a big carbon vacuum cleaner, and just because your dollars paid to plant some tree doesn't mean that the tree would not be planted anyway. The question is – would the planet be able to sustain us if everyone produced the amount of carbon you produce on your own? The answer is probably no even for the most efficient American given that that person blows away tribesmen in Papua New Guinea. But certainly if all Americans dropped to the average that we "Holier than Thou" folk do, things would improve greatly.One thing that really ticks me off and I think should be pushed for. I am toying around with putting Solar on our house in Healdsburg. It won't cost much more in installation costs to put in an extra couple of kilowatts, but the panels are expensive. I'd be willing to put in more panels allowing me to amortize the fairly fixed installation costs IF I could sell the extra electricity – which is in fact much closer to a true carbon offset than planting a tree. But PG&E is not required to pay me for that extra generation – which results in people deciding to NOT put in larger installations, which has a direct benefit of generation of clean energy, and an indirect benefit of pumping money into the Solar industry. Sad.

  • bikesgonewild
    February 10, 2009 - 12:49 pm | Permalink

    …it's a little like trying to stuff the genie back into the bottle, huh ???…carpooling w/ other journalist's or fotog's helps in a sense but i agree w/ kwc that better exposure of cycling may ultimately benefit all of us…
    …then again maybe not…

    …at this point in time, i would imagine none of us as concerned cyclist's, despite whatever our work entails, falls into the "most egregious offenders" category…

  • bikesgonewild
    February 10, 2009 - 7:49 pm | Permalink

    …it's a little like trying to stuff the genie back into the bottle, huh ???…carpooling w/ other journalist's or fotog's helps in a sense but i agree w/ kwc that better exposure of cycling may ultimately benefit all of us……then again maybe not……at this point in time, i would imagine none of us as concerned cyclist's, despite whatever our work entails, falls into the "most egregious offenders" category…

  • bikesgonewild
    February 10, 2009 - 7:49 pm | Permalink

    …it's a little like trying to stuff the genie back into the bottle, huh ???…carpooling w/ other journalist's or fotog's helps in a sense but i agree w/ kwc that better exposure of cycling may ultimately benefit all of us……then again maybe not……at this point in time, i would imagine none of us as concerned cyclist's, despite whatever our work entails, falls into the "most egregious offenders" category…

  • GeekGuyAndy
    February 10, 2009 - 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Offsets aren't a joke or BS, they are just unrelated. Driving your car 600 miles and planting some trees are two different things. They are not opposite.

    The answer is that we all need to use relatively minuscule amounts of energy compared to what we use today to create a sustainable world. But of course that's not going to happen, so instead we can just do what we easily can, hope for solutions, and eventually most of the population will suffer. But that's nature, and there's no way to avoid that.

    There are so many global issues, and none of them will be solved with buying offsets of any kind. We just have to let it run its course. We can prolong our way of life by conserving, but that's still extremely far away from being sustainable.

  • GeekGuyAndy
    February 10, 2009 - 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Offsets aren't a joke or BS, they are just unrelated. Driving your car 600 miles and planting some trees are two different things. They are not opposite.The answer is that we all need to use relatively minuscule amounts of energy compared to what we use today to create a sustainable world. But of course that's not going to happen, so instead we can just do what we easily can, hope for solutions, and eventually most of the population will suffer. But that's nature, and there's no way to avoid that.There are so many global issues, and none of them will be solved with buying offsets of any kind. We just have to let it run its course. We can prolong our way of life by conserving, but that's still extremely far away from being sustainable.

  • GeekGuyAndy
    February 10, 2009 - 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Offsets aren't a joke or BS, they are just unrelated. Driving your car 600 miles and planting some trees are two different things. They are not opposite.The answer is that we all need to use relatively minuscule amounts of energy compared to what we use today to create a sustainable world. But of course that's not going to happen, so instead we can just do what we easily can, hope for solutions, and eventually most of the population will suffer. But that's nature, and there's no way to avoid that.There are so many global issues, and none of them will be solved with buying offsets of any kind. We just have to let it run its course. We can prolong our way of life by conserving, but that's still extremely far away from being sustainable.

  • Warren T
    February 10, 2009 - 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Fritz, I'm walking everywhere while in Sydney … we can just call it a wash.

    On the other hand, would you like some Kool-Aide? http://warren-t.blogspot.com/2007/07/dad-im-bored.html

  • Warren T
    February 11, 2009 - 2:32 am | Permalink

    Fritz, I'm walking everywhere while in Sydney … we can just call it a wash.On the other hand, would you like some Kool-Aide? http://warren-t.blogspot.com/2007/07/dad-im-bored.html

  • Warren T
    February 11, 2009 - 2:32 am | Permalink

    Fritz, I'm walking everywhere while in Sydney … we can just call it a wash.On the other hand, would you like some Kool-Aide? http://warren-t.blogspot.com/2007/07/dad-im-bored.html

  • kit
    February 10, 2009 - 7:45 pm | Permalink

    As you know, Jakki and I are proudly going to the top of Howell Mountain to watch stage one completely car free (unless our friend Andrea decides to drive us up the 1700 ft climb ;). We certainly deal with feelings of guilt every time we drive now that we've chosen to life a lower impact life. I wonder, though, if the tour could do more to contribute than buying offsets.

    How about fan and press busses that would shuttle people and their bikes from stage to stage? I guess we could do it ourselves…

  • kit
    February 11, 2009 - 2:45 am | Permalink

    As you know, Jakki and I are proudly going to the top of Howell Mountain to watch stage one completely car free (unless our friend Andrea decides to drive us up the 1700 ft climb ;). We certainly deal with feelings of guilt every time we drive now that we've chosen to life a lower impact life. I wonder, though, if the tour could do more to contribute than buying offsets. How about fan and press busses that would shuttle people and their bikes from stage to stage? I guess we could do it ourselves…

  • kit
    February 11, 2009 - 2:45 am | Permalink

    As you know, Jakki and I are proudly going to the top of Howell Mountain to watch stage one completely car free (unless our friend Andrea decides to drive us up the 1700 ft climb ;). We certainly deal with feelings of guilt every time we drive now that we've chosen to life a lower impact life. I wonder, though, if the tour could do more to contribute than buying offsets. How about fan and press busses that would shuttle people and their bikes from stage to stage? I guess we could do it ourselves…

  • Anonymous
    February 11, 2009 - 2:42 pm | Permalink

    most scientists agree that carbon dioxid does not cause global warming – in fact the opposite global cooling which takes affect after the carbon is release (usually hundreds of years)

  • Anonymous
    February 11, 2009 - 9:42 pm | Permalink

    most scientists agree that carbon dioxid does not cause global warming – in fact the opposite global cooling which takes affect after the carbon is release (usually hundreds of years)

  • Anonymous
    February 11, 2009 - 9:42 pm | Permalink

    most scientists agree that carbon dioxid does not cause global warming – in fact the opposite global cooling which takes affect after the carbon is release (usually hundreds of years)

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