Tag Archives: fuel

Efficient Urban Transportation in a Zip

February 24, 2017 by

Living in a technologically advanced world has its advantages, like convenience and fiscal recompenses we never could have envisioned.

As a Los Angeles native who paid car insurance the price of a mortgage in some places, one new convenience I can appreciate is Zipcar.

The program has graced Omaha with its presence for seven years. Zipcar was founded in 2000 by Antje Danielson, current director of education at MIT Energy Initiative, and  Robin Chase, co-founder of French chartering service Buzzcar. The pair created Zipcar to provide a more efficient, affordable method of driving in the city.

Zipcar P.R. manager Lindsay Wester, who is based in Boston, explains that Zipcar is as simple as join, reserve, and drive.

Business customers begin by signing up online, where they pay a one-time setup fee of $75 and annual membership dues of $35 for each driver. This membership covers fuel, insurance, mileage, parking, and maintenance. Individuals can pay a $25 one-time setup fee annual dues of $70, or a monthly fee of $7 plus the one-time setup fee.

The Omaha fleet includes two Honda Civics and a Ford Escape. The Hondas and the Ford cost $8.50 per hour Monday through Thursday, or $69 per day. The Friday through Sunday rate is $9.50 per hour, or $77 per day for the Hondas and $83 per day for the Escape.  The other car available in Omaha is a Volkswagen Jetta, which costs $9 per hour or $69 daily at all times. The cars are parked on Creighton and UNMC’s campuses, downtown at 17th Street and Capitol Avenue, and at Mammel Hall near Aksarben Village.

Upon becoming a member, the company sends the user a Zipcard, which functions as an entry key. The ignition key stays inside the vehicle. Each user gets one card with their membership, which gives them access to Zipcar’s nationwide fleet. Upon reserving a car, the company digitally connects the Zipcard to the specific car reserved. The user gains access to the vehicle by holding the card to the card reader placed in the windshield. After scanning in with the Zipcard, a user’s smartphone can be a backup to the Zipcard for locking or unlocking the car doors throughout a reservation.

The company first brought their concept to Omaha in 2010, launching at Creighton University, followed by University of Nebraska in 2012, then the Medical Center in October 2015. In Omaha, the target market has been students, but Zipcars also are useful for travelers.

Melanie Stewart, sustainability manager at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, is in charge of UNMC’s program.

“Last year we had a visiting professor come in, and they had a friend in Lincoln, so they used a Zipcar to visit their friend while in Omaha,” Stewart says.

The Zipcars are also used by visitors of patients who may need to purchase supplies or just take a break from being at the hospital.

Patrick Lin, a 21-year-old Omaha resident, says, “I used Zipcar roughly four to six hours every week during my sophomore year. I first heard about it from some friends in California because they couldn’t have cars during their first year at college.”

Lin enjoys the ability to use a car when needed without the expense of owning it. “Personally, it allows a lot more to get done compared to other services. The only restraint I have is that since there is a time limit, you must plan your activities accordingly. But the per-mile usage you can get when a trip is planned right is entirely worth the time constraints,” he says.

Wester says that Zipcar has remained successful and growing for more than a decade and a half. And as city dwellers become more disenchanted with the idea of owning cars, their success should continue to accelerate.

Visit zipcar.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Let States Deal Individually 
with fuel dependence

February 1, 2014 by

Large, centralized government perpetuates stupidity in a manner that defies reason. The framers of the Constitution understood this well, as reflected in the decentralization of power to the individual states. Each state, with its varied interests, was to individually be an incubator of better ideas. The union was to be a competitive relationship as well as a collective one.

But today, with the very best of intentions and far removed from their constituents, our representatives in Washington enact gigantic solutions. Solutions devoid of reality.

The Renewable Fuel Mandate is one such gigantic solution to the perceived problem of Peak Oil and dependence on imported oil. Now that we know all of our oil needs are well satisfied by crude oil production in the Americas, prudence would dictate that Congress end the mandate (in other words, farm subsidies).

But alas, no.

There is a loud sucking sound in the corn-producing states. Interests big and small depend on the federal mandate, one way or another. From tractor sales, farmland sales, petroleum fertilizer sales, and ethanol distillation, a relatively small number of people profit from the general public thanks to a silly solution to a non-existent problem.

Had the ethanol mandate solution been left to individual states, it would be easier to correct. As it is being answered on a federal level, the bureaucratic momentum 
appears unstoppable.

An illustrative example is the reluctance of even Iowa farming communities to use ethanol-laced gasoline. They know what damage it causes to expensive engines. Then there’s the fertilizer-caused dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the high water consumption, the high energy use to produce ethanol, the willingness of using food for fuel, the early caucus in Iowa, and the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington, D.C.

Even Europeans are waking up to the stupidity of renewable fuels. They see that vast areas of rain forest are being cleared to produce “green” diesel; that ethanol burns dirty in engines designed to burn gasoline, polluting the air; and that the lower energy content in ethanol reduces gas mileage in engines designed to burn gasoline. For all these reasons and more, the E.U. is proposing to limit the renewable content in their diesel and gasoline to 6 percent.

The increasing mandate in the U.S. is forcing gasoline refiners to purchase Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) or ethanol credits because they have hit the 10 percent blend wall. Wall Street gamblers (such as JP Morgan Chase, recently fined $920 million for their business practices) saw this coming and purchased all the federal credits they could get their hands on.

The unattainable mandate paired with the forced purchase of RIN credits has caused the price of the credits to climb 2,000 percent. This huge Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expense will be forced upon the consumer in the form of big gasoline price increases. Yet one more federally mandated wealth transfer from the average guy to the gamblers with the cozy relationships 
with legislators.

But as long as the EPA continues to say, “Who cares about reality,” the Renewable Fuel Mandate will continue. As gasoline consumption continues to decline, the percentage of ethanol will have to increase to meet the increasing mandate. Therefore, our well-intended but dumb solution will get 
even dumber.

What we need to ask is whether the Renewable Fuel Mandate makes sense. Economically? Environmentally? Would each of the corn producing states individually impose the same mandate within their state borders?

The answer to each is a resounding no.

Any views and/or opinions expressed in “The Know-It-All” are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of B2B Omaha magazine, or its parent company, and/or 
its affiliates.