Adam Snyder's Environmental Economics

Environmental Economics

Are motorcycles good for the environment?

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Surprisingly, there is a debate going on about the effects of riding a motorcycle on the environment. To me the logic seems clear, smaller engines equals less gas consumption and motorcycles are smaller creating less manufacturing pollution, all suggesting that they would help in the fight against pollution. So why would it even be a debate?

Although there are more reasons why motorcycles would be good for the environment than what I listed, lets look at some negative effects. First and foremost, like any product that is “environmentally friendly”, you have to look at the means in which its distributed. Motorcycles are shipped throughout the US and some even shipped overseas, which can create a lot of pollution.

Also, according to “US Green Technology” some big Harley Davidson motorcycles consume up to 42 miles per gallon, good, but as the article says that most environmentally friendly cars can attain number.

I also didn’t consider the lack of carpooling abilities a motorcycle has. Although it has no problem letting your ol’ lady ride spider, a motorcycle only has one seat, whereas a car might be able to transport more than one person substantially decreasing pollution per person. (Now think about a school buses carbon footprint per person, wild!).

There are possibly many more reasons on top of these why motorcycles are bad for mother earth I’m sure, but what I noticed throughout reading these is that most of these problems are present in most cars.

1) Carpooling doesn’t happen as much as people would like it to happen so all things held constant, a single motorcycle rider may not that bad.

2) Keeping that Idea in mind, 42mpg for a motorcycle with on rider is better for the environment than a single driver, driving most common cars in 2013 with a gas mileage of 24.8mpg according to green car reports.

3) Also, lets not forget that cars are distributed as well, a whopping 253 million of them. Saying that motorcycles are bad for the environment because of distributional externalities is kind of a stretch (there are about 7 million registered motorcycles in the US).

From all this, my conclusion is that the issue around motorcycles is the same for all topics, there are solid reasons for and against every environmental issue, and I am concerned about the legitimacy of arguments when you narrow your scope. It’s really easy to find reasons to say motorcycles are bad for the environment if you are only looking for them. You are only limited to your creativity to come up with new reasons. This represents the difficulty of measuring costs, benefits and externalities because they theoretically could go on forever, which defeats the purpose of even measuring them.


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