Thanks to Marc Morano for alerting us to the article in the Los Angeles Times ‘Can you buy a greener conscience?‘
A budding industry sells ‘offsets’ of carbon emissions, investing in environmental projects. But there are doubts about whether it works.
By Alan Zarembo
September 2, 2007
The Oscar-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth” touted itself as the world’s first carbon-neutral documentary.
The producers said that every ounce of carbon emitted during production — from jet travel, electricity for filming and gasoline for cars and trucks — was counterbalanced by reducing emissions somewhere else in the world. It only made sense that a film about the perils of global warming wouldn’t contribute to the problem.
Co-producer Lesley Chilcott used an online calculator to estimate that shooting the film used 41.4 tons of carbon dioxide and paid a middleman, a company called Native Energy, $12 a ton, or $496.80, to broker a deal to cut greenhouse gases elsewhere. The film’s distributors later made a similar payment to neutralize carbon dioxide from the marketing of the movie.
It was a ridiculously good deal with one problem: So far, it has not led to any additional emissions reductions.
Beneath the feel-good simplicity of buying your way to carbon neutrality is a growing concern that the idea is more hype than solution.
According to Native Energy, money from “An Inconvenient Truth,” along with payments from others trying to neutralize their emissions, went to the developers of a methane collector on a Pennsylvanian farm and three wind turbines in an Alaskan village.
As it turned out, both projects had already been designed and financed, and the contributions from Native Energy covered only a minor fraction of their costs. “If you really believe you’re carbon neutral, you’re kidding yourself,” said Gregg Marland, a fossil-fuel pollution expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee who has been watching the evolution of the new carbon markets. “You can’t get out of it that easily.”