NPR Reports on, Fumbles Story on FTC's Investigation of Carbon Offsets


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From NPR's All Things Considered, we learn that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will begin to take a closer look at the "booming, unregulated 'carbon offset' market." We like to hear that there will be more regulation and heavier auditing coming to a market that has simply exploded in the past 18 months, and can be a bit vague and difficult to verify. Getting quality offsets now requires homework -- probably more homework than the average concerned citizen is likely to do -- so, if done correctly, standards and auditing would be a good thing. The FTC will be looking most specifically at verifying "double selling" and additionality. Stay tuned; hearings are scheduled to get underway next week.

What we don't like is NPR's myopic point of view on carbon offsets: that they're tools for those feeling guilty about their carbon footprint. "There is something new to feel guilty about: carbon," they say. "The guilty can now buy something called a 'carbon offset.' Essentially, you pay someone else to reduce or 'offset' carbon emissions equal to your own." While the second sentence is true, to characterize offsets as simply a tool for the guilty to help themselves feel better is shortsighted and naive.Moreover, to suggest that we should feel guilty about our individual or collective carbon footprint is the sort of "gloom and doom" environmentalism that has paralyzed individuals and muted businesses' efforts. Characterizing offsets as an extension of this guilt serves to neither inspire people to change their behavior nor to use offsets as they should be used: as a way to promote a less carbon-intensive future while mopping up whatever we can't reduce first.

Tsk, tsk, NPR. Have a peek at TreeHugger's How to Green Your Carbon Offsets guide, and please be more responsible in the future. ::All Things Considered

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