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Transportation

Uber and Lyft Could Do a Lot More for the Planet

Carbon offsets and bike-sharing services are great. But the ride-hailing industry still hasn’t confronted the heart of the problem it has created.
Warming planet, too many miles.
Warming planet, too many miles. Jeff Chiu/AP

Earlier this month, Lyft announced that all passenger rides will be carbon neutral, indefinitely. The plan is to cancel out vehicle emissions by investing in carbon offset projects, while eventually folding electric and autonomous vehicles into its fleet. The move bolsters the company’s image as a greener, more socially conscious alternative to Uber, its major competitor, which has not made such a pledge.

But any company that casts itself as a model of sustainability should draw extra scrutiny. There, it’s not clear that Lyft—or Uber, or any ride-hailing company—stacks up as a good environmental citizen in the broader landscape of transportation, the sector that recently replaced power plants as the number-one source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.