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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Carbon Indulgences

The new pseudo-religion of Global Warming has discovered the value of a tried and trusted practice from the Middle Ages, that of selling indulgences to its believers to help relieve them of their guilt caused by their own carbon emitting "sins". These new modern day indulgences come in the form of "carbon offsets" and they were all the rage at the recent Academy Awards:

HOLLYWOOD'S wealthy liberals can now avoid any guilt they might feel for consuming so much non-renewable fossil fuel in their private jets, their SUVs, and their multiple air-conditioned mansions. This year's Oscar goodie bag contained gift certificates representing 100,000 pounds of greenhouse gas reductions from TerraPass, which describes itself as a "carbon offset retailer." The 100,000 pounds "are enough to balance out an average year in the life of an Academy Award presenter," a press release from TerraPass asserts.
Not to be left out, the Goracle has jumped onto this bandwagon too and claims to purchase enough indulgences and green power to offset the incredible energy consumption of his Tennessee mansion which came under criticism earlier this week. Bill Hobbs takes a closer look:

So, where does Gore buy his ‘carbon offsets’? According to The Tennessean newspaper’s report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management. a company he co-founded and serves as chairman:

Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe…

As co-founder and chairman of the firm Gore presumably draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he “buys” his “carbon offsets” from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn’t buy “carbon offsets” through Generation Investment Management - he buys stocks.

Al Gore profiting from his climate change activisim? Say it isn't so!

But like the Indulgences of the Middle Ages, these modern "carbon offsets" are unlikely to be of any real value, at least not in the way in which they are being promoted - environmentally. From

The carbon offsets, on the other hand, sound like a very reasonable plan. That is, they did until I began thinking about them.

Most carbon offsets seem to work on one of a few principles: they plant trees, invest in renewable energy sources, or pay someone in a developing country to use some less-polluting technology, like a CFL.

It turns out that a lot of websites have already devoted quite a lot of space to discussing why these plans don't work particularly well.
A lot of websites like here, here, here, here and here to name a few.

So if Al Gore and the Hollywood-ites start whipping out these coupons and claiming to be green, be very, very skeptical. My guess is that TerraPass is less like a real carbon offset and more like, say, the International Star Registry, where you get a nice certificate for the wall and the internal glow of having a star named after you (which, officially, it really is not). Both the star registry and TerraPass are selling the exact same thing -- fluff. (...)

This type of thing is incredibly amenable to fraud. If you sell more than 100% of an investment, eventually the day of reckoning will come when you can't pay everyone their shares (a la the Producers). But if people are investing in CO2 abatement -- you can sell the same ton over and over and no one will ever know.

The fact that Carbon offsets are just another unregulated scam was the topic on the Rush Limbaugh show today. Transcript. Rush even came up with a pretty funny parody commercial.

Update: Mark Steyn weighs in.

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