Like almost everyone else in the United States, my family has been hunkered down at home since mid-March due to concerns about spreading coronavirus. This has meant a cessation of all my children’s activities like dance and soccer. Therefore, it has also meant cancelled trips for dance competitions and soccer tournaments.
Furthermore, my wife and I have been working from home since returning from an aborted ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado. There is nothing quite like the ski resort effectively closing for the season a mere two hours after you arrive in town. It is a real kick in the groin to have to go up and over the Berthoud Pass twice in thirty-six hours.
All of this has already added up to seventeen days of working from home, so two cars have been practically parked for that same time period. Just my driving alone for those seventeen days would equal more than 350 miles of driving my Nissan Leaf not counting any additional mileage for grocery shopping or shuttling kids. This demand for transportation has not been shifted. It has been destroyed.
Along with the demand destruction for transportation is a corresponding drop in carbon emissions as a matter of course. The dramatically altered commuting habits of Americans and others across the globe have decarbonized our transportation. It’s not permanent, but it does show that a radically different future is possible.
One of my goals for 2020 was to replace 500 miles of car-centric transportation with human powered transit. I had hoped to start commuting one or two days a week via bicycle to my job, but coronavirus has had other ideas about how things are going to develop this year.
While I have not been replacing car miles with bicycle miles I have watched the number of miles driven drop precipitously. For example, during the first two weeks of April I have driven my Nissan Leaf less than 60 miles which includes all of my household’s car transportation to do things like pick up groceries. Sixty miles is what I would generally average across less than three days during normal conditions. I guess all of the kilowatt hours from my solar array are going to get shunted onto the grid for someone else to enjoy. Each day of no car travel in my Leaf is like putting 4 kWh onto the grid for someone else to use. Maybe it will displace just a little bit of coal.
The upside to this whole shit sandwich of coronavirus, specifically, and 2020, generally, is that we are witness to a different possibility for the future that is a departure from our current path without being dependent upon radical technological change.