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ihategrigris


Feb 4, 2007, 2:20 PM
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Carbon Offsets
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CBS wrote:
The Other Green Card
Image

Jeanette Pavini
Reporting

(CBS 5)
The average American is responsible for between 20 and 24 tons of C02 a year, equal to driving around the world twice. Environmentalists say almost every activity you can think of contributes to greenhouse gases.

"You buy a cup of coffee, the water is heated, the coffee beans are grown, they're roasted using heat, they're shipped to the store -- all of those are activities that go into the final product, your cup of coffee," says Michel Gelobter. He heads up a policy institute focused on sustainable economics.

"You buy a cup of coffee, you buy a car, you buy a gallon of gas, you take an airplane trip, it's possible to figure out how much greenhouse gases that economic activity embeds or contains," he explains.

In fact, a single cross-country flight burns over 100 gallons of fuel per passenger. That's where carbon offsets come in.

"A carbon offset is a service that helps you balance some aspect of pollution," says Tom Arnold of TerraPass. "Typically you'll pay a fee and that fee will go to subsidize clean energy that reduces carbon dioxide pollution somewhere else."

A number of Bay Area companies now sell offsets. DriveNeutral and Renewable Ventures buy credits on the carbon exchange. TerraPass does that, and also supports wind farms and projects to generate energy with cattle manure. For between 40 and 50 dollars, you can even out the impact of your car's exhaust for a year.

Arnold says, "Even though you're still driving your car, on balance you're not creating any more global warming pollution."

Does that mean you can buy a Hummer and some carbon offsets, and drive away guilt-free? Not so fast.

"Offsetting should be the final resort for the individual," says Jasmine Hyman. "The first thing an individual should do is reduce their own consumption."

Hyman is marketing director for The Gold Standard, a non-profit that sets guidelines for carbon offsets in Europe. She says going "carbon neutral" is just a start.

"It also is an important psychological stepping stone for people," she says. "It's not that hard to pay $12 per ton to offset an air ticket, that's the first little step."

That's a step Claudia Polsky is more than willing to take.

She says, "It's what the bumper stickers are about, what the flight tags for offset flights are about, they are all opportunities to start a conversation."

I find the concept of giving an arbitrary amount of money for carbon emissions to a private NGO in order to 'offset' your carbon emissions a complete fraud.

Discuss.....


scrapedape


Feb 5, 2007, 6:39 AM
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Re: [ihategrigris] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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Why don't you stimulate the discussion by elaborating a bit? For example, consider the following questions:
1. What do you mean by a "fraud"?
2. Why do you consider this a fraud?
3. How have you determined that the amount of money being charged is arbitrary?
4. Why have you placed "offset" in quotation marks?


winkwinklambonini


Feb 5, 2007, 7:02 AM
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Re: [ihategrigris] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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My GF tried to explain this to me. It's very complicated, but it's worthwhile I think. I don't see it as a way to rid yourself of guilt as the article suggests. Rather it's a way to vote with your pocket book if you don't have the ability to choose clean energy from your utility.

"For Example: Imagine a 30 year-old coal plant. Having paid off its initial investment, it can offer
electricity to the grid at 6 cents per kWh. Now, imagine a wind generator in the same grid. It
was built only a year ago and still has to pay off capital costs. It can only afford to sell electricity
for 8 cents per kWh, which is too expensive to compete. When you buy a Renewable Energy
Certifi cate, you pay the wind generator that extra 2 cents per kWh, so it can offer its electricity
at a competitive price, 6 cents per kWh."

An unregulated free market depends on consumers making educated choices for it to adapt when the cheapest option is not good for sustainability. If you lived in a place where you could choose clean or coal energy, like in Maine, you could consider the extra 2cents for wind a donation to a charity, except it's going into the market, and is therefore not wasted as much on administration, and helps spur change in the market. It's the same as buying healthy food, american made tools, etc. Voting with your pocketbook.

But, if you don't have that choice, and you still want to make a difference in how the US produces energy, you can do yourself what the gov should be doing more, and subsidize clean energy.

Another thing about clean energy, it's a large initial investment yes, but because the fuel is free, once the initial costs are paid off, it will be cheaper eventually.

Check out http://mainegreenpower.org/Guide.htm and explore the different options there.


(This post was edited by winkwinklambonini on Feb 5, 2007, 7:06 AM)


ihategrigris


Feb 5, 2007, 7:41 AM
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Re: [scrapedape] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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scrapedape wrote:
Why don't you stimulate the discussion by elaborating a bit? For example, consider the following questions:
1. What do you mean by a "fraud"?
2. Why do you consider this a fraud?
3. How have you determined that the amount of money being charged is arbitrary?
4. Why have you placed "offset" in quotation marks?

Well, what you have is a private FOR PROFIT company thats essencially collecting a tax. There is no enforced accountability of these offsetting companies as they are not registered charities. They're just private companies that will ostensibly transfer some of the money to energy progeams (they will also transfer an amount to line their own pockets).

These sorts of programs prey on the ignorant and the greedy. They do next to nothing to solve the CO2 problem, besides perhaps raising awareness.

Save your money, and use the couple hundred dollars your offset costs to buy some energy efficient appliences and light bulbs. Or just sell that big SUV and replace it with a Prius. Way more worth it....


(This post was edited by ihategrigris on Feb 5, 2007, 7:44 AM)


winkwinklambonini


Feb 5, 2007, 8:06 AM
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Re: [ihategrigris] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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ihategrigris wrote:

Well, what you have is a private FOR PROFIT company thats essencially collecting a tax. There is no enforced accountability of these offsetting companies as they are not registered charities. They're just private companies that will ostensibly transfer some of the money to energy progeams (they will also transfer an amount to line their own pockets).

The Companies are private, but the organizations that dole out $ are not. There also is certification involved:http://www.green-e.org/about_whatis.shtml


Partner j_ung


Feb 5, 2007, 8:54 AM
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Re: [winkwinklambonini] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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I bought a terrapass to offset my bi-weekly commutes to Charlotte. But that's certainly not all I do to minimize my own footprint.


ihategrigris


Feb 5, 2007, 9:50 AM
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Re: [j_ung] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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j_ung wrote:
I bought a terrapass to offset my bi-weekly commutes to Charlotte. But that's certainly not all I do to minimize my own footprint.

I'm just not convinced you've done ANYTHING by buying a terrapass. IMHO this is something that should be closly regulated by government, rather than governed by a self-regulating body. If this offset program is the way to go, then it should be collected with gasoline taxes, and handled either by a state, or at-least by a not-for-profit organization.


hangerlessbolt


Feb 5, 2007, 10:06 AM
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Re: [ihategrigris] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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ihategrigris wrote:
...and replace it with a Prius.

Prius…the answer to GM’s EV1


winkwinklambonini


Feb 5, 2007, 10:11 AM
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Re: [ihategrigris] Carbon Offsets [In reply to]
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ihategrigris wrote:
I'm just not convinced you've done ANYTHING by buying a terrapass. IMHO this is something that should be closly regulated by government, rather than governed by a self-regulating body. If this offset program is the way to go, then it should be collected with gasoline taxes, and handled either by a state, or at-least by a not-for-profit organization.

I agree that it should be regulated by gov. so that revenue is collected in such a way that it discourages consumption(gas tax), and then used to help spur innovation and development in renewables. But in the absence of that, something needs to be done. Also the above link is a non-profit.


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