Carrying on with my new Wednesday tradition, I’m transforming your energy questions into answers. Let no one tell you that I’m short on tricks.
This week, I’m tackling a query from Vic Roberts. Here we go…
This topic is a freaking mine field. For every company that sells carbon credits or offsets, there’s a person who thinks they’re bogus. There’s also a person who thinks they’re the best way to save the planet. Since I’m the type of girl who’d prefer the hard fight first, I’d like to explain why some think carbon trading is the greatest invention since invisible underwear.
Put It On Our Tab…
First, the concept of carbon credits is relatively new and was created to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the industrial market sector. As I noted last week, industrial users consume more power than any other sector. The international carbon trade was established to stimulate environmentally preferable activities (such as renewable power generation or forest farming) with funds paid in exchange for a virtual reduction in on-site emissions.
On the surface, it’s easy to get frustrated watching these major industrial users buy their way out of the pollution they cause instead of focusing on improvements at the source. It seems as though they’re slapping Band-Aids on bullet holes, but that’s not always the case…
What you may not see is that some are also working to increase efficiency and reduce on-site emissions, too. They just can’t move fast enough.
Transformations take time and money—two things most businesses don’t have enough of to begin with. By assigning caps or quotas, countries and markets are able to assign a monetary value for each metric ton of carbon dioxide, which in turn financially motivates more individuals to become operators who sell credits.
Countries that have ratified the Kyoto Treaty follow different guidelines than those who have not (like the United States), though they’re all based on the same general idea. Around the world, there are five exchanges trading carbon allowances: the Chicago Climate Exchange, European Climate Exchange, Nord Pool, PowerNext and the European Energy Exchange. Other markets are in development or in early stages of trading, and carbon is being touted by some as the commodity of the future. I disagree.
Can You Say “Pollution Palliation” Three Times Fast?
I certainly see the value in the promotion of renewables via financial incentives (there’s no carrot like money to move a market) and I really like to read about developing countries generating more revenue, but I fear that there are too many industries that will see this as the easy way out. Consider this…
I tell you that you can lose all the weight you want if you take some magical pills that I’m selling, and the more you take the more you’ll lose, regardless of what you eat. If, however, you do not take my pills but still want to lose weight, you’re going to need to reduce your caloric intake, increase your physical activity and find the time to make it all happen.
If you had the money to buy the pills, would you choose the hard way? I wouldn’t. I’d eat 45 White Castle burgers in a row and plop my ass in front of the TV for the rest of the week. Losing weight is hard. Swallowing is easy. (heh) And easy is…well…easy.
Change and challenge are BFFs. Many people are not against change unless it involves them directly. This is clearly the case with the so-called “Carbon Cowboys” who would prefer to buy carbon credits rather than change the way they do business, and with industrial users, that’s exactly what you’re asking them to do.
The Shape Of Things To Come…
While I certainly don’t have any issues with market mechanisms that increase the number of environmentally preferable operations, I do take issue with policies that allow energy hogs and polluters to ignore their on-site energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, spending their money on carbon credits limits the amount of capital they will have on hand for efficiency upgrades.
To get back to Vic’s question, we (meaning “we” as individuals) manage the undermining effects of this new trading scheme by doing what we’re supposed to be doing in the first place: reducing our energy use, consuming less stuff and minimizing the impact our activities have on the planet.
Once you’ve done all that, if you’re rolling in dough and guilt, you can exchange your money for a carbon credit. Just make sure you research the company taking your money, because ultimately it’s the brokers who are getting the most out of these trading schemes and not all of them care about the planet as much as they do the profit. If you’d like to learn more about legit carbon trading, I think the Environmental Defense Fund has some great information to get you started.
I had hoped to tie in a few more questions, but this really needed its own post and I’m out of time.
A few quick notes before I go:
- Next Wednesday (or within a few days thereof — it’s summertime), I’m going to answer a question from Johnny B. Truant on whether we really need to unplug everything to be energy efficient. Hit me up if you have thoughts you’d like me to include or address.
- If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in a future post, tweet @Renewabelle or get in touch with me one of a few other ways over here.
- If you have any follow up questions or notes you’d like to add, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope this information proves useful and that it finds you well.