On Tuesday we learned that Whole Foods customers can now pick up Wind Power Cards while doing their grocery shopping. Conveniently placed close to check-out, the cards are meant to facilitate carbon offsetting for individuals and families alike. But how does it work?
For all thoses confused, the Wind Power Card buys credits which represent the additional cost and value of wind energy. Essentially, buyers of the card are financing wind power that goes into the national grid, which of course for now is more expensive to produce than conventional "brown" energy. Purchasing a credit does not replace or reduce your conventional electric bill. You are simply paying a voluntary preminum to help increase the ratio of clean to dirty energy in the national grid. Here is a simple illustration of the concept.
Seemingly harmless, the Wind Power Cards set off a roaring debate in online sustainability circles this week.On Wednesday, Strange New Products posted on the topic trashing the cards and equating Renewable Energy Choice (RCE), the company that issues the cards, to Enron.
The cards are not even an investment, because you won't get any material value in return. It's all going to help another company get rich. Most companies seek investors to secure capital. But in this case, RCE is asking people for free money under the context of doing your part to help the environment.
Later that day Boing Boing (a top 3 blog) picked up the thread announcing that the cards are nothing but "useless" except for doubling as "refrigerator magnet[s]." The big beef being that when you buy a card, there is no direct connection between the wind-generated electricity you purchased and the actual electricity delivered to your home.
Not that it isn't tricky but clearly, neither blog grasped the concept of the wind power cards. Sustainablog* got into the action, pointing out this out. Shortly after the discussion boards at greenbusiness.net erupted with a flurry of opinionated comments on the topic "Boing Boing does not understand wind credits."
Many had misgivings about the possibly misleading marketing of the Wind Power Cards claiming that the word "credit" should imply a credit to your bill. Yet others were upset that the card looked like a phone card, but lacked similar functionality. Enlightened comments such as the following from Jessica Drummond, peppered the debate too. She said: "I see the purchasing of REC''s as a voluntary cap and trade system for suburban moms."
What do you think about the cards? And more importantly, do you understand wind credits?
*Sustainablog is run by Jeff MacIntire-Strasburg, who also writes for TreeHugger