The market is new but this storyline is already very old, as longtime HA readers will remember. Go read that post from April if you missed it at the time, as it shows how common this particular piece of knowledge about carbon-offset redundancy is. The fact that Pelosi et al. didn’t care enough to demand proof of “additionality” in the offset projects chosen means they’re either ignorant of the issue or that they know but just don’t care so long as they strike the right posture of good intentions for the lefty base.

On the upside, there’s no evidence that the offset projects actually increased global warming. Which is another little pothole in this area to watch out for, if you can believe it.

Many environmental groups say any offset must meet one all-important criterion, called “additionality”: Buying an offset must cause some new reduction in emissions that wouldn’t have happened if the money hadn’t been paid.

“If you don’t have additionality,” said Mark Trexler, a consultant in Portland, Ore., who advises companies on offset purchases, “you know what you’re getting. You’re getting nothing.”

A review of three projects that got about a third of the funds from the House’s offset purchases shows that, in all three cases, it did not appear that offset money was the sole factor causing any of the projects to go forward.

About $14,500 of the House’s money went to the North Dakota Farmers Union, some to pay farmers to do “no-till” farming. The farmers stopped using conventional plows and instead make tiny slits to plant their seeds. The practice increases the amount of carbon, a component in heat-trapping carbon dioxide, kept in the soil. But organizers said that some farmers had started the practice before the offset money came in because it saves fuel, brings in federal soil-conservation funds and could increase crop yields.

What to do? Dump even more cash down this money pit, via the magic of regulation!

In Europe, offsets are regulated and often expensive, more than $30 per metric ton. In the United States, offsets are hardly regulated and generally far cheaper…

“No one is changing any practices for carbon offsets right now, because it doesn’t make economic sense” with prices so low, said Ted Dodge, executive director of the National Carbon Offset Coalition, based in Butte, Mont., which handled the transaction.

Tags: North Dakota