Aug 02

Be Careful With Carbon Offsets

Americans are big wasters, and we know it. Traveling 2,000 miles by airplane generates more than a ton of CO2 a person. We’re also a guilt-ridden and rich country that is happy to solve the world’s problems by pulling out our checkbooks, as long as it means we don’t actually have to do anything that would change our lives.

The market for offsets has blossomed for this reason. People feel guilty about their carbon emissions and then pay a company to plant trees or invest in alternative energy systems instead of actually changing their lifestyle. As little as $90 can plant 900 trees, enough to annually remove as much carbon dioxide as is annually generated by the fossil-fuel usage of an average United States resident.

It’s a nice idea, and so far, the companies have been successful. The unregulated, voluntary sector of carbon credits is supposed to reach $4 billion by 2010.

The problem is that these companies may be unreliable. There is no official regulatory system in place to make sure these companies are putting your money toward its intended use. If you don't watch what you are doing, you may end up buying worthless credits that don’t reduce carbon emissions at all or overpay for these credits. Other companies, like DuPont, encourage consumers to pay to clean up their own pollution, earning money in the process.

The takeaway is you can invest in offsets successfully, but you must be careful:

1. Read up on the subject from objective sources.
2. Check out who guarantees their offsets.
3. One source with whom you can feel comfortable is Clean Development Mechanism Gold Standard.


  • @ alvinwriter

    what's the deal w/ TheNewsRoom not letting me copy text from the article? That's gotta create at least 1/2 ton in carbon emissions alone right there. :-)

    Aug 03
  • Carbon offsetting seems sound, but the real issue is the amount of carbon dioxide that's in the atmosphere. The Earth has a way of naturally absorbing the carbon dioxide from the air and it also has a way of releasing it back. These involve natural cycles that keep the balance in nature. Human activity tends to disrupt this balance. There is only so much that the Earth can take as a result of this, and there is not enough put into finding ways to get rid of pollution. If I'm asked, I'd say people should stick to what's natural, and that means nothing that is not contrary to the natural cycles of nature.

    Here's a link to TheNewsRoom on how General Electric hopes to encourage people to compensate their purchases with carbon offsets:

    I hope you found that interesting. I'm writing from TheScienceDesk at TheNewsRoom. This is an invitation to those interested in global warming to find news they can use in TheNewsRoom. Email if you want to know the details. We will be happy to hear from you.

    - Alvin from TheScienceDesk at

    Aug 03