Doing Something About Carbon Offset Arguments

Like the NYTimes, a month ago, today’s Strib gave carbon offsets the hairy eyeball.

As they confirm, being carbon neutral is super cheap ($6/laptop, a dime/gallon of gas). It’s so cheap, that I see it as the 2nd easiest way to be more environmentally & energy conscious. The first – buying all your energy through your energy company’s renewable energy program (like WindSource from Xcel Energy).

I buy both. I don’t buy Joel Makower‘s argument:

“I’m concerned this will simply be a guilt-free way for consumers to do as they please — to drive their Hummers as far as they want, just so long as it’s carbon-neutral.”

100% offset whether a luxury auto, a Tennessee mansion, a Dodge Neon, a Prius, or your daily bus commute is better than any of those without the offset. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Being carbon-neutral is better than not.

So what if the biggest violators continually and repeatedly buy the most offsets. Isn’t that the point of offsets? If everything we used was completely carbon neutral from the start, we wouldn’t need offsets. But they’re not.

Sure, dramatically changing to a lower-impact lifestyle is even better. Quantifying and understanding your carbon footprint is a good, easy, approachable starting point.

After offsets, next step is better understanding the biggest violators in your lifestyle; your car, your appliances, using the Kill-a-Watt to find the others.

Then, reduce where you can, offset the rest.


“It seems that some environmentalists are more interested in producing guilt than in reducing carbon.” – Alex Tabarrok

3 thoughts on “Doing Something About Carbon Offset Arguments

  1. [sarcasm]But, Garrick, we’re supposed to always compare all of our decisions against the perfect ideal, not what we’re actually already doing.[/sarcasm].

    Sometimes I think that some environmentalists would actually prefer the “purer” solution to the one that actually reduces the number of oxidized hydrocarbons out there.

    I keep wondering if they’d rather be “right” than actually have a net improvement of the situation.

  2. The first step to climate change mitigation is efficiency. The second step is efficiency and the third step is efficiency. Carbon credits/offsets are the very, very, very last thing to do before the void of no action. First learn how to use less energy/fuel/electricity. When you have exhausted every possibility, you might see if there are any verifiable carbon credits that you can turn to for offsetting and trading.

  3. @elizabeth dougherty,

    Respectfully, no. The very last thing you do is mount solar panels on your house and go off-grid. Listen to my podcast.

    Besides, if the last thing we did was buy carbon credits, we’d never make any progress.

    We both agree, efficiency needs to be in the infrastructure – not in the individual. Buying carbon credits does that. Faster and more effectively than any other action, because the offset programs are set up for this.

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