Monday, December 28, 2009

Buying individual or family carbon offsets? How about trading offsets for being a jerk!

Now you might consider this posting a little bit of a rant, but that's ok.

As a disclaimer. I know what carbon offsets are. I own a wind turbine that creates clean energy (no carbon emissions) and when I am not using that energy, it goes back to the grid. In a real sense I am doing something personal to help, and it costs me real money. We expect a payback in about ten years or so, if the wind keeps blowing.

I also know what "cap and trade" is. In the 1990's we used "cap and trade" to significantly reduce acid rain production caused by power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2). It worked. We should expect that "cap and trade" for carbon emissions to work for industries by setting a market price for carbon emissions. The market provides an incentive to bring new technologies on-line or retire old polluting technologies. Eventually the market disappears when the pollutant is no longer emitted.

Now for the crazy part. There is a market for your individual carbon production. You can pay companies like TerraPass (aptly and ironically named) $369.00 for your families offset. Here is what you get for that half house payment:

2 Car decals,
2 bumper stickers,
4 luggage tags
1 fridge magnet

 a "certificate", (read it and weep) and a promise: 

Where your money goes

When you buy a carbon offset from TerraPass, your money supports clean energy and other projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our offset portfolio consists of a mix of clean energy, farm power and landfill gas capture. If you want to decide the quantities of these projects yourself, you can build your own portfolio.
How the market set the price of $369 is a mystery to me, but I would guess they sat around a table passing  a bottle of McCallan single malt, smoking Cohibas and laughing about how much they could get out of a well meaning family for a couple of pieces of paper and a promise to do good.

OK, you want to do good for the planet and feel good about doing bad things like making carbon emissions in the first place. How about recycling, walking to work or the bus stop, or, god forbid, skipping a trip or two on an airplane. Get rid of the extra car. (no need for the second bumper sticker then).

I don't even want to get started with the big guys who jet around in private aircraft, watercraft and limousines and live in multi mcmansions and then claim to save the planet by buying offsets. It just doesn't work that way. Witnesses to that were Mother Teresa and Ghandi. If you want to change the planet, you need to act as if it needs saving, not just by buying a "get out of jail free" card.

However, you got to admire the TerraPass team, with a straight face it's a slick way to raise some cash in exchange for a bumper sticker and a certificate.

Taking a cue from TerraPass, I will be opening a business called JerkPass.

Ever made a mistake, cut someone off while driving, accepted the wrong change from the clerk and not gone back, made an offhand remark that hurt someone, forgot to flush the toilet or put the seat down, been insensitive to your spouse.etc. Well JerkPass can help.

We promise to do nice things for the population of the planet. We will hire well groomed and friendly people to hold doors for others, to give up their seats to the elderly or disabled, to NOT park in handicap spaces. We promise to spend our money on things that help others. We promise not to waste and always be respectful and cheerful. To be part of the solution, buy one of offset packages or send a gift certificate to the most un-thoughtful person you know. Make them happy in their ignorance.

What you get for $369.00 is

A certificate that allows you to offset your actions as a jerk, by saying "...HEY, CHILL OUT MAN, I HIRED SOMEONE ELSE TO BE NICE TO TOHERS.."

Two bumper stickers that say.

I hired someone else to drive their own car rationally!

You also get the peace of mind that you are doing something (albeit vicariously) good for others while you can just be yourself.

Personal carbon offsets, what will they think of next?

Anyone got some other ideas for other "OFFSETS"?

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