Back when I lived in San Francisco, I lived near Van Ness Avenue, a wide boulevard from which it was very difficult to make a left turn. People trying to make left turns on or off of Van Ness would often cause traffic to back up. I complained that these people should just make three right turns and not cause so much trouble. If anybody asked, I would advocate making left turns on or off two-way streets illegal.

So, imagine my joy at finding this piece in Time magazine:

United Parcel Service took a detour to the right on its way to curb CO2 emissions. In 2004, UPS announced that its drivers would avoid making left turns. The time spent idling while waiting to turn against oncoming traffic burns fuel and costs millions each year. A software program maps a customized route for every driver to minimize lefts.

In metro New York, UPS has reduced CO2 emissions by 1,000 metric tons since January. Today 83% of UPS facilities are heading in the right direction; within two years, the policy will be adopted nationwide.

As much as I like the geeked-out contrarian wing-nut logic, I fear this might be a canard. Not that I have anything against canards, in fact I love them, especially here and here.

1,000 metric tons of CO2 sounds like a lot, but the market price of a ton of carbon offset is only $3.70 at the Chicago Climate Exchange. Although I can find much higher prices for a ton of carbon offset – up to $50 at some European exchanges – $3,700 or even $50,000 is not an impressive savings for months of UPS driving in NYC. I bet the savings from switching to CNG or hybrid delivery vehicles would dwarf the right-turn dividend.

But on the other hand, if this seemingly sinister policy reduces the time I spend waiting behind trucks trying to turn left, I can’t complain.