Thursday, March 01, 2007

Al Gore's Carbon Footprint

So, you may have heard in the news or over at Rynoman's blog that a libertarian think-tank in Tennessee discovered that Al Gore's electricity bill is much higher than the average American's.
Al Gore's office's response is that he is reducing his carbon imprint, in part, by purchasing "carbon off-sets," something I hadn't heard of until listening to NPR yesterday.

The Wall Street Journal has an article today about carbon offsets and how they work (subscription may be required for the article).

The concept is pretty simple: You can figure out how much CO2 you're emitting by driving your car to work every day, or taking a cross-country flight, etc., and donate an amount of money to an organization building green energy facilities or planting trees in order to offset your carbon footprint. (To calculate your annual carbon footprint, go to this website.)

For example, Travelocity will tell you how much your plane trip "costs" in terms of CO2, and allows you to add a donation to the price of your bill. The donation then goes to a company that builds wind farms, buys carbon permits, etc.

One popular company is TerraPass, which funds biomass projects and trades renewable energy credits on the Chicago Exchange. I went there and calculated that 12,000 miles driven per year on my Camry creates 8,350 pounds of carbon dioxide. I can buy a $50 TerraPass that will "offset" my imprint by investing in green energy opportunities.
The WSJ article says there's a lot of fraud quickly popping up, so you just have to research carefully who you're donating to, and how much work they're actually doing.
So, this is what Al Gore does. Much of the market for this seems to be from people saying "I know global warming is bad, but how in the world can I do anything about it?" It makes them feel better to buy a carbon offset, and it's pretty convenient to just click a box on Travelocity.

Tomorrow, I'll write another post on 2 easy things that you can and SHOULD do help reduce energy consumption and contribute to future environmental stability. For now, I'll let us all think about carbon offsets.

13 comments:

d blake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Jennings said...

FYI - you can get free access to the Wall street Journal site with a netpass from: http://news.congoo.com

JTapp said...

Wow, you might just be a spammer but that's an interesting link. For the price of putting spyware on my computer, I can have a whole slew of subscription content. If it could do The Economist, I'd be all about it.
If I didn't get the WSJ free through Baylor then I would probably use your service.

Greatmoose said...

Personally, I think the whole "carbon-offset" thing is scam. 1) How do you know that it really offsets your footprint? 2) How long does it take? For instance, say TerraPass (or whoever) plants some trees in Boliva to offset my car. How long until those trees mature? 3) To me, the whole offset is really just a way to make people feel better (especially people with footprints as big as Gore's). Did you know that the goody-bags for the Oscars had TerraPass cards in them? I guess that was to offset all the private jets and limos used to get the stars to the awards...

JTapp said...

I think #3 is definitely right. And I agree, it's hard to quantify #1. The article actually mentions that trees only absorb like 15 pounds of CO2 per year.

However, it appears carbon offsetting does do some good. If it builds some wind farms and biomass plants that otherwise would not have been funded, then that's a good thing.

But, I think the chance for fraud is enormous. That's why you just have to be vigilant and look at the fine lines of all the projects that Terrapass and others are doing. How much of your $50 actually goes to buying a wind generator and not some guy's pocket?

But, Americans don't usually do that (just look at churches). Which is why I'll propose some simpler solutions.

Greatmoose said...

I found out today, that the parent company of TerraPass was created and partially owned by Gore. How's that for handy? He essentially pays himself for the priveledge of being an environemental hypocrite and all-around douchebag. Either the environment needs saving (which I don't think it does), or it doesn't. There shouldn't be a loophole for those that have the money to avoid the problem.

Ryan said...

I am pro Al Gore being a douchebag!

Anonymous said...

How do you figure that driving 12,000 miles creates over 8,000 lbs of C02? At 25mpg, the gasoline used (~480gal) only weighs only weighs ~3,500 lb.

Aaron said...

can someone attach a CO2 monitor to Al Gores Mouth to quantify the amount he has spewed into the atmosphere since this whole inconvinent truth thing started.

Oh and by the way, if all the glaciers in the world melted today, it wouldnt raise the sea levels one inch.
Dont believe me? Throw some ice cubes in a glass and top it off with water. Then go to an earth day rally and leave it on the table. When you come back, there will be no spillage. Ice displaces liquid stupid!!!

Oh and I have carbon offsets for sale on E-Bay! Use buy it now for free shipping!

Anonymous said...

okay aaron, what you just said is completely bogus and you'd know it if you actually watched al gore's movie. there's a difference between ice that's already in the ocean water (analagous to your ice cube example) and ice that's always been on land, which is also melting. when that goes, it will be like melting an ice cube outside of your already-full cup and pouring the resulting water in. you won't have to wait the length of an earth day rally to see the cup overflow. manhattan will be underwater.

Guy Lane said...

The scepticism about rouge used carbon salesmen is appropriate. However, it is clear that quality carbon offsets can be beneficial to the planet particularly if the offsets are for greenhouse emissions that have no optional greenhouse reduction strategy. A case in point is air travel. If you do travel by air then it is appropriate to offset the emissions. For this reason Uncook carbon offset have been designed as a quality product with highly additional projects administered through the respected Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme. See www.uncook.com for more information.

JTapp said...

If you're reading these comments, I suggest you watch The Great Global Warming Swindle produced by the BBC.

Anonymous said...

yea.. u guys do kno that al gore owns terra pass.. so he is offsetting his carbon foot print by giving money to his company ang getting a profit with it