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The Ins and Outs of Carbon Offsets

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Interesting article this week in the IEEE Spectrum about carbon offsets. See link for full article.

I must admit that CheatNeutral is better than my idea to sell my exercise credits to fat people.



The Ins and Outs of Carbon Offsets

Is there any credible way to pay somebody else to make up for the greenhouse-gas emissions you're personally responsible for?


What if you could offset your sexual infidelity by paying a relatively small sum of money to foster someone else’s monogamous relationship? That’s the premise behind the Cheatneutral Web site, which is designed to spoof and critique carbon offsetting. Yet millions of individual and corporate consumers have embraced offsets, and finance companies with big names like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan have gotten into the business of offering them.

Indeed, since 2005 the market for voluntary offsets has skyrocketed. In 2008, it doubled in both volume and value from the year before, reaching US $705 million, according to New Carbon Finance, a branch of the global consultancy New Energy Finance.

The physical and philosophical basis for offsets is that greenhouse gases mix rapidly throughout Earth’s atmosphere, so that if less is emitted in one place it truly makes up for greater emissions someplace else. In this sense, the carbon market is fundamentally different from Cheatneutral’s bizarre fidelity bazaar, where a Delhi woman’s faithfulness does nothing to assuage the pain felt by the London cuckold. Lower carbon emissions in India, in the long run, really do make life better in England, or at least less risky.

But that assumes that the Indian emissions are lowered in response to the offsets purchased, which is a big if . So questionable is that premise, some environmental experts believe offsets are no more effective at neutralizing the sins of consumption than medieval indulgences were at ensuring residence in heaven. Some even claim that the offset market is intrinsically harmful.


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The offset market is not new, sulphur has offsets, hydrocarbons have offsets and all have been sucessful. The concept is that some industries can cut more cheaply than others, that makes the offset available and the market determines the price. At the start the offsets are cheap but as the off sets are discounted they get more expensive so companies must decide if they are going to cut their own emissions or purchase someone elses offsets.

These kind of statments really bug me, lets discuss the topic at hand and not make stupid comparisons. We are talking about letting the free market decided the most cost effective method to make air quality better as our world becomes more crowded and underdeveloped countries try to improve their economies.

"What if you could offset your sexual infidelity by paying a relatively small sum of money to foster someone else’s monogamous relationship?"

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