Carbon Credits Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be

September 1, 2007 11:16PM

By Drew Johnson In the days following the Tennessee Center for Policy Research’s finding that Al Gore’s Belle Meade residence often devoured more electricity in one month than the average American household consumes in an entire year, carbon offsets became the excuse of choice for Gore and other hypocritical environmentalists. It was claimed that Gore offset his massive consumption of polluting fossil fuels by purchasing carbon offsets, or “carbon credits.” By paying others to do things that benefited the environment that he was unwilling to do himself, like planting trees or installing windmills, Gore could buy forgiveness for his environmental sins. Of course, we soon found out that Gore not only never bought the offsets — they were included in a benefits package — but that he is the co-founder and part owner of Generation Investment Management (GIM), the company that sells the offsets he owns. Even if Gore is crassly exploiting the global warming hysteria that he helped create to sell carbon offsets that now help line his pockets, a fair question remains: Are carbon offsets an effective way to reduce the harm we, as individuals, do to the environment? The answer, simply, is “no.” The Carbon Neutral Company, one of the vendors that sell offsets to Gore’s GIM, admits that offsets “will be unable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … in the short term.” Instead, offsets merely: “(1) demonstrate commitment to taking action on climate change; (2) add an economic component to climate change; (3) help engage and educate the public; and (4) may provide local social and environmental benefits that help to encourage the use of low-carbon technologies.” So while carbon offsets may make shamefaced environmentalists feel better for taking action, they do little to actually cleanse the environment. The concept of carbon offsetting seems downright ridiculous after considering that fossil fuel-produced carbon — the pollution that carbon offsets claim to reduce — generally remains close to the area in which it is released. While the overwhelming majority of the world’s pollution occurs in developed Western countries, nearly all commercial carbon offsetting activities are tree planting operations in developing African and Asian nations. This means that most trees planted with the intention of reducing carbon never have the opportunity to capture the carbon they supposedly reduce. To his credit, once the Tennessee Center for Policy Research exposed his environmental hypocrisy, an embarrassed Gore began installing solar panels and taking other steps to reduce the colossal energy consumption of his Nashville home. While few of us have the money or the desire to install solar panels, following Gore’s lead and taking action to reduce personal energy consumption is far more effective than purchasing ineffective and, often, bogus carbon offsets