A market-analytics expert says it’s too early to gauge how reopening offices might affect transportation and energy consumption

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The return to traditional office life could shed a light on corporate responsibility in the climate crisis.

  • The return to in-person office life could fuel changes in transportation and energy consumption.
  • How those changes might reflect corporate roles in the climate crisis remains to be determined.
  • Jan Freitag, a market-analytics expert, says an accurate assessment can be made around Labor Day.
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With more people getting vaccinated in the US, discussions about employees physically returning to offices (whether full time or in a hybrid of remote and in-person work) are well underway. Signs of getting back to traditional office life raise the question: How might transportation and energy usage be affected?

Before COVID-19, Americans spent an average of 200 hours a year commuting to work. And although most of the country went into lockdown last year, causing people to ditch their regular commutes, demand for larger vehicles continued to grow, in part because of consumer perceptions about safety and greater cargo capacity. The International Energy Agency’s 2020 report said that “transportation is still responsible for 24% of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion.”

Traditional corporate travel for in-person meetings, conferences, and events has also been a massive source of annual CO2 emissions. For example, in 2019, Salesforce staff traveled enough to generate 146,000 metric tons of CO2, equivalent to the output of 17,500 homes in a year.

Jan Freitag, the national director of hospitality market analytics at CoStar Group, said it’s too early to tell if work-related expeditions will drastically increase this year. “After Labor Day, we expect a clear demarcated line in the sand about whether people will return to the office or not, restart business travel, as well as whether group travel will happen,” Freitag said.

The Labor Day benchmark is used in relation to the beginning of the school year when parents and children will return to the drop-off, pickup schedule. “That drives employers to say, ‘You’re back to where you were because your kids are back to school, so let’s go back to normal where you commute to work,'” Freitag said.

Purchase trends showed that regardless of commute changes, the pandemic hasn’t deterred Americans from hitting the road. Not only did electric-bike sales grow by 145% between 2019 and 2020, but this past April, 18.5 million light vehicles were sold – the highest number since 2005 – and electric-car sales saw a 249% increase compared to the same period last year.

One report predicted that electric-car sales will grow significantly in 2022 because of greater affordability and price parity with nonelectric vehicles. The sustainable effects of these trends may depend largely on subsidies and infrastructure investments, such as additional bike lanes, EV charging stations, and parking spaces at office complexes.

Regarding energy usage, as more people return to the office, the biggest difference may pertain to air-conditioning. Out of all commercial buildings, offices consume the most cooling energy. And that’s expected to intensify, as a recent report from the US Energy Information Administration predicted that energy consumption for air-conditioning will rise by 29% between 2020 and 2050 because of expectations of warmer temperatures.

Hopefully, companies will focus on sustainable business operations, including preferable work arrangements for employees, that lead to responsible corporate influence on transportation and energy usage. Otherwise, they’ll risk significant talent drain.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Electric bikes could get much cheaper under a new proposal from two House Democrats

Rad power bikes radwagon
The bill aims to spur e-bike sales and encourage more people to ditch their cars.

  • A new proposal from two House Democrats could dramatically cut the cost of buying a new e-bike. 
  • The E-BIKE Act aims to make e-bikes more accessible and to cut the country’s carbon emissions. 
  • It would provide up to a $1,500 credit to subsidize 30% of the cost of a new e-bike. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

There are plenty of reasons to buy an e-bike. They offer all the benefits of a normal human-powered bike, but with considerably less sweating and much more utility. Plus, for certain people, they can replace car trips, cutting down on congestion and curbing harmful emissions. 

But one major hurdle to widespread e-bike adoption remains: cost. 

Although some manufacturers are taking it upon themselves to sell low-cost e-bikes – Rad Power Bikes’ new $1,099 RadMission 1 is an example – by and large, high-quality e-bikes are out of reach for the average consumer. A new proposal from two House Democrats aims to change that. 

This month, Reps. Jimmy Panetta and Earl Blumenauer – of California and Oregon, respectively – introduced the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act, a tax-credit program that aims to spur e-bike sales.

The act would cover 30% of the cost of a new e-bike up to $1,500 and would apply to new bikes that cost $8,000 or less. The idea, they said, is to encourage people to take fewer car trips and ultimately reduce their carbon footprint. 

“E-bikes are not just a fad for a select few, they are a legitimate and practical form of transportation that can help reduce our carbon emissions,” said Rep. Panetta in a statement. “My legislation will make it easier for more people from all socio-economic levels to own e-bikes and contribute to cutting our carbon output.” 

According to the lawmakers, the environmental impact of such a program could be huge. If 15% of car trips were replaced by an e-bike – an ambitious goal – carbon emissions could drop by 12%, they said in a press release, citing an October study out of Portland State University. That makes sense, given that the transportation sector is the single largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the US, and passenger cars are the biggest polluter within that category. 

The proposal isn’t without precedent. It resembles a federal tax credit program that gives buyers of certain low- and zero-emission cars a rebate worth up to $7,500. Some politicians and advocates have long argued that a similar incentive should be extended to electric bikes. 

In 2019, California passed a bill that provides residents of low-income and disadvantaged communities up to $7,500 toward the purchase of an e-bike or bike-share membership if they trade in their car. And multiple European countries including France, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom have introduced some form of e-bike subsidy. 

Bicycling and sustainability groups welcome the policy. 

“Incentivizing electric bicycles makes them a competitive transportation option for more Americans and supports a national effort to lower carbon emissions,” Jenn Dice, CEO of advocacy organization PeopleForBikes, said in a statement. “The E-BIKE Act positions rightfully electric bicycles as a critical part of a larger solution to climate change and equitable mobility.”

President Joe Biden’s sweeping plans to transition the US away from fossil fuels – and the fact that Democrats control both chambers of congress – mean that the E-BIKE Act may not be such a stretch. Biden also aims to electrify the federal government fleet, establish half a million new charging stations, and support EV research. 

Read the original article on Business Insider